By Kalani Dantley
Joel Haas never saw it coming.
The day he wouldn’t be able to do what he loves. The day he wouldn’t be able to dine at a restaurant.
“I was planning to travel a lot more and, of course, the pandemic hit,” said Haas, who lives in Washington D.C. “And as all of us had to do, I had to adjust and adapt.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Haas was traveling the country, filming his High Speed Dining and Inhaling America video podcast — during which he gets high on legal, recreational cannabis and eats at premier restaurants around the country.
So Haas instead is eating takeout and has eaten out for every meal since the pandemic began.
To date, the 51-year-old New York native has had more than 500 meals from restaurants in Washington.
“I always try to up the challenge and do more,” he said.
How It All Started
Haas began what he calls “fine dining for sport” in 2017, when he decided to dine in every Michelin star restaurant in Washington within the span of a month.
In 2018, he ate more than 500 meals from restaurants in Washington, Los Angeles and the other cities he visited.
But in 2019, Haas raised his game.
He started his High Speed Dining podcast and set out to travel to all the states in which marijuana is legalized — buying the highest quality weed and dining at top restaurants.
Haas, who has deemed himself the “stoner food critic,” stresses the importance of having a brand that truly captures who you are.
He found it somewhat challenging to describe his occupation when people asked what he did. People knew what a food critic was, and they knew what a stoner was.
Voila, the name was born.
“For me, it created a great brand and a great identity,” Haas said. “People seem to be picking up on it and it’s getting used in some stories and headlines.”
What started as high-speed dining has now evolved into an entire stoner approved brand, including the podcast.
Within a year, he’s produced more than 100 episodes that chronicle 600 meals at 315 restaurants in 17 states.
“Creatively, I am feeling really good,” Haas said. “I’m doing some really unique, original videos in a style that nobody else is doing for restaurants or food.”
Transitioning During the Pandemic
Haas was in New York City in February, eating at the best Michelin star restaurants as the virus began to surge.
When he returned home from New York, he booked a flight to Las Vegas — which was set to be his final city for his High Speed Dining video podcast.
Then everything got canceled.
“The virus truly hit hard,” Haas said. “I was going out to restaurants until the very last day they allowed but it was uncomfortable. It was strange.”
Haas began questioning himself: Am I putting these employees at risk? What kind of person would be out at a restaurant right now?
And he didn’t know what to do.
So he started ordering takeout on a daily basis.
“Ordering takeout was my saving grace and allowed me to get out of the house,” Haas said. “When I showed up to pick-up my order, I couldn’t feel happier. Restaurants are my happy place.”
Haas kept ordering food because he wanted to support restaurants. And what he thought would last a couple weeks has resulted in more than five months of takeout meals.
Naturally, he continued the production of his podcast.
“I didn’t know what to do but I wanted to keep supporting and helping,” Haas said. “It just became the right thing to do. Restaurants were adapting, and I found my voice and my direction with it.”
High Speed Dining: Takeout Edition
Haas has eaten exclusively restaurant food since the pandemic began.
Every. Single. Meal.
In fact, he’s ordered from more than 200 restaurants in Washington, totaling nearly 500 meals and more than $37,000 in spending. He says he tips generously — and even tipped $100 per order on his first 25 meals.
Now he has five months’ worth of footage with which he can produce more podcasts.
“I am just really trying to figure out how to produce it and who to partner up with because I can produce this in so many ways,” Haas added. “It can be marijuana heavy, it can be food heavy but I’m hoping to find a partner to produce this based on their needs.”
Seventy-two days of the meals were part of what he called his takeout A-Z challenge. And he’s challenging others to participate as well. Haas ordered from restaurants that start with every letter of the alphabet as a creative way to make the experience more fun.
“The opportunities to order from better restaurants from home started to arise,” Haas said. “It’s been incredible discovering a new restaurant in the middle of the pandemic.”
Aside from eating takeout, Haas has focused during the pandemic on philanthropy. He’s supported and donated to a plethora of local food banks and charitable organizations in Washington — and across the country in the cities he’s visited.
“I really just like knowing that I’m helping put food in people’s stomachs, if I can,” Haas said. “In these tough times, everybody needs help and if there was ever a time in my lifetime to help out others, this is the situation to do so.”
Haas aims to be the opposite of a cliché “food critic,” and is getting a warm response to his persona and stoner approved brand.
He hopes to continue to build his brand — and support restaurants in the process.
“I care for these people,” he said. “I care for this culture and I feel it is my obligation.”
The post Meet Joel Haas: The Stoner Food Critic Who Creatively Grew His Brand Amid the Pandemic appeared first on Home Business Magazine.