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Joel Haas calls himself the “stoner food critic” and he’s on a mission to inhale America. Since 2018, the Northeast D.C. resident has vaped cannabis before eating 1180 meals at 525 fine dining restaurants in 20 states.
Whenever possible, he targets Michelin-starred restaurants. He just got back from a trip to New York where he says he dined at all of the city’s 19 two-star and three-star Michelin restaurants in 10 days.
Haas documents it all himself. “It’s progressed to the point where I’m shooting video and photos of every single thing that I eat,” he says. “I have pictures now of me taking bites of everything I’ve had in two or three or five angles of shots—the above camera shot of food, front, sides, and crotch cam where I put the camera down below on my lap and you get to see the fork go into my mouth.”
Because eating a meal with Haas is like dining with a very aggressive Instagram influencer, he knows not to invite anyone to join him. “Bringing people out to eat, they just get in the way,” he says.
Haas edits the photos and short clips into videos and organizes them by city on his website, High Speed Dining. Each city is a “season.” He’s published seven so far; three more are fully produced and another 12 seasons that shot and recorded. “I have 2.5 terabytes of content and over 300,000 photos in the can waiting for me to continue to finish to produce,” he says.
Each video in season three, which covers D.C., is four minutes and 20 seconds long. He visited Sushi Nakazawa, Fiola, Tail Up Goat, Gravitas, A Rake’s Progress, Estuary, Komi, Masseria, Plume, Punjab Grill, and Seven Reasons. In order to comply with Komi’s no-photo policy, the episode recorded at the Greek fine dining standby contains only audio.
“It’s taken off like an obsession, almost an addiction,” Haas says of his project. “I keep going to all of these cities and stuffing my face with more food than anyone ever has and I lose weight or come back the same weight from these cities.”
A photo of Haas on his website highlights his ripped abs. When the 51-year-old rapidly dines around a city he says he walks 10 to 15 miles per day and only drinks sparkling water due to a health condition that alcohol and caffeine exacerbate.
While Haas faces a number of physical challenges and has a medical marijuana card, he says he uses cannabis primarily for recreation. He vapes on the way to meals using rosin he makes himself.
Cannabis enhances the dining experience, he says. “Food is just absolutely fantastic and delicious. If it’s a 10, it’s a 12 for me. Since I only drink sparkling water, all the flavors and nuances of food stand out and pop.” Other than selecting sativas for daytime meals and hybrids or indicas for later at night, Haas isn’t pairing strains with cuisines just yet.
Weed and Michelin meals are expensive. People constantly ask Haas how he foots the bill. “I ask the same question to anyone who is married and has kids,” he says. “How do you pay for kids, a wife, and college? I’m single, I never married, I have no kids or alimony or child support.”
The meals aren’t on the house. “I’m paying for everything and I’ve tipped probably over 30 percent every meal over the last year plus,” Haas says, but adds that a chef he’s developed a rapport with will occasionally let him try a dish he or she is testing out for free. Haas includes information about his mission on his profile on reservation platforms like OpenTable.
His professional background is in radio. His career brought him to D.C., where he worked for Sirius XM Satellite Radio running stand up comedy channels for eight years. He says the platform was revolutionary for comics looking to diversify their revenue streams. Eventually he started to record and produce albums and now operates his own label. Owning his own business gives him the freedom to travel and eat.
“I’m fully devoted to this,” Haas says. The stoner food critic project launched in late 2017 when Haas packed in meals at all of D.C.’s Michelin-starred restaurants in one month. He calls it a full-time job but hasn’t made a cent off the elaborate project. And while he recognizes he’s not the first person to get high and eat a great meal, he hopes what he’s doing inspires other diners.
At first Haas says he wanted to “[dumb] down fine dining.” “I’m not a foodie that likes to get high, I’m a stoner with a sports coat,” he says. “This whole tour I’ve worn the same hat, the same jacket. I’m trying to bring the Snoop Dog crowd into the Martha Stewart restaurants. I’m trying to bring [in] an audience who would never go to these restaurants.”
Haas targets cities that have lenient or legal cannabis laws and cities with Michelin guides. “Michelin is usually the starting point,” he says. “It seems to be the status symbol and the way to measure things.”
He calls himself the Michelin whisperer. “I did Gravitas 17 times before they got their Michelin star,” he says. Gravitas owner Matt Baker says Haas has now been to his Ivy City restaurant 24 times. “He always does the full chef’s tasting menu,” Baker says. “He’s super great with our staff and a friend of the restaurant.”
Haas also visited Siren 25 times before it got its Michelin star. “They had to close,” Haas says. “I went there so much because the food was great and you could go on a Saturday night and get a booth because no one was showing up at that point.”
In the video for Sushi Nakazawa he predicted that the omakase restaurant inside the Trump Hotel would get a star. It did.
The videos from the first D.C. season are predominantly slideshows of still pictures with audio of Haas narrating his dining experience. Haas’ energy is infectious but his intended audience is not always clear. If it’s diners contemplating a top-dollar meal, the videos could use more substance and accuracy.
Here’s how he describes an entree at Seven Reasons: “For the main course it was duck. They sliced up a nice duck breast into just little little thin slices so good with some nice sauce, some sour cream, some cauliflower rice, and I call it a big pile of guacamole. They call it a torched salsa verde. It was excellent, whatever it was. Really solid meal. Delicious, proteiny, lots of beautiful color in this stuff.”
And at Sushi Nakazawa: “These guys here in D.C. are bringing the absolute finest fish from all the great places where these fish are harvested and caught and whatnot. The food is so delicious and tasty. Really some exotic flavors here.”
Lately Haas’ eyes are on the prize. “In this world there are very few things that we come up with that are unique and original,” he says. “ I’m trying to create the role of stoner food critic and book a TV show out of it. That’s the ultimate goal.”
He’s prepared if that doesn’t happen. “If I never monetized this and it ended today and everything came down, I’d smile for the rest of my life about the greatest experience, the best two years of my life.”