Chef for Higher

Defying the stereotype that marijuana breeds laziness, Chef “Hawaii Mike” Salman might be the busiest cannabis entrepreneur in New York State. Earlier this year, Salman officially launched Chef for Higher, a brand of culinary cannabis products that include cannabinoid-infused honey, olive oil, coconut oil, and gummies. That said, he’s also been holding supper club events since 2015; these are multi-course meals that, when requested, are infused with cannabis. Currently, he’s preparing to open his new social club/restaurant, Fly Private Social, at 240 DeKalb Ave in Fort Greene, in the former home of the beloved bar/restaurant Two Steps Down.

For Salman, food is a universal language, and he’s using it to start conversations about cannabis use and legality. For many, the word edibles conjures memories of being way too high for way too long. Salmon wants to reintroduce people to edibles as an everyday experience that can be controlled and low-key, rather than a tool (or a weapon) for getting too high, or high beyond one’s own control.

Fly Private Social isn’t strictly centered around cannabis—Salman pitches it more as a celebration of hip-hop and the culture and creatives that surround it. The club will offer a “consumption lounge,” but—more often than not—the food on offer will be THC-free.

“The three pillars that I have are food, cannabis, and hip-hop. Everybody I know, in my life and career, has come through those three things,” Salman says.

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The menu showcases global, diasporic foods by highlighting universal culinary ideas; the meals always include some sort of dumpling, a style of fried chicken, and a form of rice. All are, in one form or another, staple dishes found in most cultures all around the world. Each dinner interprets these three dishes differently, sometimes featuring styles and flavors from Brazilian, Filipino, or Palestinian cuisines (reflecting Salman’s own heritage), or showcasing interpretations found further abroad.

Salman has taken to calling his dinner parties “flights.” These public dinners (open to whoever buys a ticket) are what Salman calls “Commercial Flights.” Meanwhile, the members-only, mostly THC-infused dinners are reserved for those who “fly private,” or, who partake in THC-infused edibles. Salman uses air travel terminology because he sees a parallel—in air travel, the customer-business relationship is founded on trust in your pilot.

“Trust, we found, was one of the greatest commodities that we had—and it was really why people were purchasing from us,” Salman says. “You’re trusting that we’re going to create a safe experience for you.”

Salman has had a storied career in both music and media. In the 1990s, he was the road manager for hip-hop duo Mobb Deep; he founded both LTD and Inked magazines (initially serving as EIC of both); and he’s provided creative marketing services to major brands like Def Jam and Mountain Dew, just to name two.

Throughout, he was always known as the guy who had weed. In a way, it’s in his blood. Growing up in San Francisco, his father sold marijuana and actively supported its legalization, marching alongside the notable cannabis advocate Dennis Peron.

He’s continued that legacy, teaming up with other small businesses to educate politicians about cannabis and advocate for its legalization. At this point in his life, he says, his focus is on “celebrating good stuff,” and Fly Private Social is his expression of what he deems “good.”

“If you build something that is important to people, and people feel safe, they feel seen and acknowledged— that’s what hip-hop gave to us,” Salman says. “As a culture, it’s about unity, peace, and love.”