Netflix and Bake
Cannabis comedian and S.F. native Ngaio Bealum is the toast of Netflix’s new stoner gourmet reality show, Cooking on High.
The ceaseless introduction of new Netflix shows into our lives has filled our evenings and weekends with marijuana consumption, but the streaming service’s new cannabis-themed competitive cooking program has a special giggle-inducing San Francisco ingredient.
You might have seen Ngaio Bealum — pronounced oon-GUY-oh BEE-lum — before without even knowing it. Although he now lives in Sacramento, his early-2000s hip-hop band Most Chill Slackmob jammed on many S.F. stages along with contemporaries like the Marginal Prophets, and opened for national acts like Zap Mama back in the day.
Bealum was born in San Francisco, and he’s a Mission High Class of 1985 alum.
“I went to [Archbishop] Riordan first, but they kicked me out,” he tells SF Weekly.
The chronic-loving comic is one of only two cast members who appear in every single episode of Cooking on High. (The other is host Josh Leyva, a YouTube star known for his “Annoying My Girlfriend” videos and One Direction band member impersonations.)
Bealum pops in three minutes into every show, usually donning a terrifically wack jacket, to describe which popular strains like Girl Scout Cookies, Sour Diesel, or OG Kush the chefs will be using. He also gives engaging descriptions of how that strain affects your body and brain, with a little bit of the cultural history of how that varietal gained prominence in the national marijuana conversation.
Two competing chefs to the stars — although hardly celebs in their own right — then fire dishes like infused fried fish, cheeba chicken-and-waffles, or truffle mac-’n’-cheese. These cannabis culinary concoctions are served to whichever comedians or rappers happen to be that episode’s judges, and viewers watch them chow down and declare a winner while riffing about how goofed on skunk they are.
Cooking on High episodes are all bite-sized, at just 15 minutes apiece, and you can easily watch the whole 12-episode season in a single sitting.
“It’s really easy to do, it’s only three hours,” Bealum tells us. “It’s not like Game of Thrones. You don’t have to remember too many characters.”
The marijuana expert role is the perfect hybrid for Bealum’s 20 years of experience as both a comedian and an advanced-level everyday stoner.
“I’m fortunate to be at the juncture of time when people are looking for informative and entertaining things about the cannabis plant,” he says.
Bealum’s schtick stands out as a particularly funny element of the show, even though he’s the “serious one” among a panel of comedians. When a surfer comic tells a story about airport security hassling him on an Amsterdam trip, Bealum quips “It’s good to see white people getting profiled.”
Elsewhere, Bealum conducts the occasional Celebrity Weed Tour with San Francisco’s Emerald Farm Tours, hosts the Rolling with Ngaio podcast on CannabisRadio.com, and strongly encourages people to watch his Netflix show so it can get picked up for a second season.
“Everybody should watch Cooking on High at least three times, four times. Try to learn it by heart,” Bealum says.
Early reviews have panned the cooking show, and it’s IMDb User Rating is just 4.7 out of 10. But critics have singled out Bealum’s banter as the chief reason to watch, with Eater writing that he “steals the show.”
“My Instagram has blown up since the show came out. I’ve added, like, 15,000 followers in the last five days,” Bealum told SF Weekly, precisely five days after the show’s release.
Cooking on High might be a bigger hit if the show decides to give viewers more Ngaio Bealum. His eccentric charm is definitely not straight-from-central-casting, and he doesn’t have to try as hard as other cast members to channel the witty pothead persona. If Netflix picks this show up another season, we hope it’s seasoned with more of Bealum’s hijinks.