Most of what Julie Berliner learned about cooking came from her father, who lived in France as a teenager. From basic kitchen techniques, to sauces to simple recipes, he showed his daughter how to wield the tools that later would define her life as an award-winning edibles baker in Colorado.
“His love and passion for food and the way it brought people together, that’s inspirational to me, and it’s the reason I love cooking,” said Berliner, adding that it was her grandmother who taught her father these core values in the first place. Now, the 30-year-old takes those same principles and applies them to her marijuana bakery, Sweet Grass Kitchen.
“My grandmother (who is from Lebanon) didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak French or Arabic, so we couldn’t communicate that well,” said Berliner. “But I remember the kitchen, and she would show me how to do certain things instead of explaining it.”
Between her father and her grandmother, Berliner learned to make the staples of the house: Greek dolmas, fresh yogurt and cheese. But one thing she never picked up from them was how to bake sweets. And it would be cookies that changed her life in several ways.
When she was wooing her now-husband Paul, she said, “He told me that the key to his heart is chocolate chip cookies.” So she did what any love-struck young person would do, and started making him batch after batch. “We never went long without having chocolate chip cookies in our house.”
She would also share cookies with friends. One day a friend asked her to make the famed treats and infuse them with cannabis. She said yes and her whole life took a turn. “Through that process I was able to see how (cannabis) was helping people, while learning about the industry,” the entrepreneur said. “It’s a historical time that Colorado will always have, and moving forward while being part of that history is the coolest thing.”
She launched Sweet Grass Kitchen in 2009, and now Berliner and her team whip up a delicious variety of cannabis edibles, including brownie bites and miniature pumpkin pies. One specialty is buttermelts, a classic candy they offer in flavors like mint, lemon and White Russian. Each morsel gets a measured dose of cannabutter, made from the flower of a single-strain, sativa-dominant hybrid cultivated by the company.
Recipes in the line are simple and utilize high-quality ingredients, a method that hearkens back to Berliner’s culinary teachings from her father. As for that fateful chocolate chip cookie recipe, Berliner said she can’t recall where she originally got it, but that it has definitely evolved over the years.
Berliner doesn’t do much baking in her off time these days. But she enjoys everything about being in the kitchen, especially when it involves using her cast-iron Dutch oven and Vitamix blender. “I love to be in the kitchen and to be creative,” she said, claiming her forte at home is now breakfast. “It’s also something I find meditative and relaxing.”
Hosting dinner parties is also something the baker and her husband enjoy immensely, especially after moving from Boulder to Denver in 2015. For Berliner, the idea of welcoming and feeding people (with or without cannabis) provides one of the best experiences she can have, as well as offer to loved ones.
Cooking, she said, “is something that makes people feel good and brings them together. It was similar with my dad, and I think it was the same with my grandmother. It’s something that she was always doing, bringing us together through food.”