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Denver chef Tiana Ramos, 23, as seen on “Chopped 420,” Season 1. (Provided by Food Network)
Denver chef Tiana Ramos, 23, as seen on “Chopped 420,” Season 1. (Provided by Food Network)
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Ron Funches has been shy about embracing the “stoner comic” label, having watched it pigeonhole other actors and writers in the past.

“Being a stand-up, people try to label you or simplify what you do as just being a pot comic,” said Funches, 38, who started comedy in Portland, Ore., before moving to Los Angeles. “It was actually Melanie, my manager, who one day opened my eyes about it. She said, ‘No matter what do you, people know you love pot. You’re not hiding anything.’ “

That was freeing for Funches, who decided to stop caring about perceptions of his cannabis use. And anyway, he’d already established himself as a Comedy Central stand-up, go-to talk show guest, voice actor (in “Trolls,” “BoJack Horseman,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “Adventure Time” and others) and actor (NBC’s “Undateable,” which ran from 2014-2016).

Now, Funches is hosting “Chopped 420,” a marijuana-centric spin-off of the seminal Food Network show. Its Tuesday, April 20 streaming premiere — timed to the unofficial stoner holiday — on Discovery+ heralds a new kind of cooking competition, albeit one somewhat familiar to viewers “Bong Appétit” (Viceland, Hulu); “Cooking on High” (Netflix); and various YouTube series.

RELATED: 10 ways to celebrate 4/20 in Colorado, including free food, virtual events and more

If you watch

“Chopped 420” premieres for streaming on April 20 on Discovery+ at discoveryplus.com.

What makes it fresh is also what convinced Funches to host it: The quality and production values of the “Chopped” brand. To nab the $10,000 prize, four chefs per episode must cook, skillfully and quickly, with CBD and THC products from the “cannabis pantry.” The goal: to “elevate (and medicate) random, mystery ingredients into show-stopping culinary dishes of high cuisine,” producers wrote in a press statement.

“Mostly I just try to do anything that is challenging and that I think will be fun, marijuana-related or not,” said Funches, who also hosts the podcast “Gettin’ Better with Ron Funches” and streams his devout gaming habits on Twitch. “This was almost a no-brainer because it’s what I was looking for. Things that usually get offered to me are things that I can tell are going to get canceled after one season. But this is ‘Chopped,’ you know?”

That, and the recent, national embrace of cannabis has opened up more places to recruit chefs and filming locations. Denver, being the first major city (anywhere) to legalize recreational marijuana on Jan. 1, 2014, immediately offered a couple of prime candidates for producers to contact: Jarod Farina, a 38-year-old executive chef at Dine with Roilty, and Tiana RamosCQ, the 23-year-old co-owner of Fleur de Cuisine.

“Back in high school, we were making brownies and other small baked treats,” Farina wrote in an email this week. “And in 2012 we moved into making hash and decided to enter our product into a competition in Los Angeles called the Secret Cup. I ended up taking first place and got offered a job here in Colorado.”

Since then, the Florida native has embraced the cooking side of cannabis, starting with infused dinner for friends and continuing through Farina’s Top Cannabis Chef win for High Times magazine. At this point, he estimates he’s taught about 4,000 students how to cook with cannabis — all for private dinners, given the state’s restrictions on public consumption. (Contestant Ramos was not available for interview for this article.)

Still, as Funches noted, this is “Chopped” — the cooking competition that started it all, and one that’s already spun off successful series (“Chopped Sweets,” “Chopped Grill Masters,” etc.). That compelled Funches to approach the hosting gig by doing a buttoned-up impression, however unconscious, of original host Ted Allen. A normally buoyant and quick-witted screen presence, Funches held back on jokes and commentary to let judges such as Esther Choi, Sam Talbot, Laganja Estranja, Luke Reyes and Deray Davis fill the airtime.

The show’s producers immediately picked up on it, with concern.

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“They actually knew my work, and they didn’t want that,” Funches said. “They said, ‘We can tell you’re trying to fit into something. But treat this like your stand-up. This is your show!’ As soon as they said that, it was like unlocking a cage for me.”

With Funches’ range of motion suddenly freed, the show snapped into place as a fun, down-to-earth but still intensely competitive reality series that took cannabis seriously. It usually took at least one round for the contestants to realize it.

“On pretty much every episode, people would come into the first round and be chill about it. I mean, it’s hosted by a comedian, it’s filmed outside in Palm Springs (California), and it’s about weed,” Funches said. “But by the end of the first round we’re judging their food and they’re getting ripped apart by the judges. They’re suddenly like, ‘Oh wait, I really do want to compete!’ … The ‘Chopped’ formula works for a reason.”

“I would compare the experience of going on the show like jumping out of a plane,” wrote Farina, also known as Chef Roilty. “It’s a straight adrenaline rush. The cameras are rolling and you only get one chance, and you have a limited time to show the judges and the world what you got. I had a blast and I felt like I was on fire.”

Farina had been yearning for a show to present cannabis in “the proper light,” which to him is one that respects marijuana as an ingredient but also a fully-legal medicine and recreational substance in 17 U.S. states (with more on the way).

“As we cross over into cannabis being more acceptable, it’s important to me that it be portrayed correctly,” he said. “I felt like the production team was on point and Ron and the judges were very educated on both cannabis and the culinary arts, which I really appreciated.”

While other details of the production are under wraps, Funches echoed Farina’s cannabis credentials. He wouldn’t have joined a project that reinforced cannabis’ stereotypically lazy, half-lidded culture of the past, he said.

“What I really love is not having the taboo attached to it,” he said. “This showcases these classically trained chefs’ true skills, but also their love of marijuana and how it’s been a positive influence in their lives, especially during the pandemic. These are health-conscious, plant-based recipes.”

So when is the show visiting Denver? Soon, Funches speculated, provided it gets renewed for a Season 2 following the five-episode inaugural run. And as public tasting rooms and cannabis delivery services increasingly come online later this year, Farina hopes to see more cannabis-based food programs and chefs in Colorado, given that the state was first in the field in so many ways.

RELATED: Marijuana milestone: Colorado will allow delivery and tasting rooms soon under new laws — but with big catches

“It is a long road, but one I believe we can take,” he said. “I would love to see some restaurants and cafes that will allow cannabis use and present opportunities to chefs, like myself, to open an establishment where we can provide a safe dining and consumption area.”

First, however, we have to see if he won “Chopped 420.”

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