Chef Lauren Gockley is the director of edibles at Coda Signature, where she creates gourmet infused confections that elevate the cannabis experience. Since launching her original line of hand-painted truffles in 2016, Chef Gockley has defied industry norms, both in cannabis and in the mainstream culinary world.
Chef Gockley completed her studies as a classically trained chocolatier at l’Ecole du Grand Chocolat in Tain l’Hermitage, home of the Valrhona Chocolate Company. After graduating at 24, she worked in a series of Parisian pastry shops before returning to the states where she quickly found a place with Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Bank, in Houston, Texas, and then on to Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York.
She worked as a raw, vegan chocolatier for 4 years, gaining great knowledge and appreciation for the complexity and versatility of cacao in its natural form. After 10 years of working with chocolate in all forms, Chef Gockley was named one of Dessert Professional’s Top 10 Chocolatiers in North America. As the director of edibles for Coda Signature, she and her team have been recognized with numerous awards for her creations, including the Best Overall Score at the 2020 Hemp Connoisseur THC Championship; 2019 California Emerald Cup, the 2019 High Times Colorado Cannabis Cup, and Leaflink’s 2019 Best-Selling Products list.
Our Interview with Director of Edibles at Coda Signature, Lauren Gockley
Tell us a bit about your professional journey – how has your career brought you to Coda Signature?
As a classically trained chocolatier, I completed my studies in France at L’Ecole du Grand Chocolat in Tain-l’Hermitage, home of the Valrhona Chocolate Company. I worked my way up in the culinary world for a decade, including upscale restaurants such as Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Bank in Houston and Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York. While gaining experience in the mainstream culinary world, I fell in love with the idea of chocolate as a superfood — it’s always been a powerful ingredient that can elevate your mood or transport you in time.
As I focused my work more on chocolate, I also saw an opportunity in the regulated cannabis industry, which had just started taking off in Colorado. The chance to combine chocolate with cannabis was too amazing to pass up, and I knew I was in a unique position to bring my culinary expertise to an industry that needed it. I was one of the original founding members of Coda Signature in 2015, and it’s been incredible to watch how the edibles industry has evolved even in just the past five years.
What does your day-to-day schedule look like?
One word that I try to be mindful of is complacency. Often it is how you focus on the day to day that can ward off the dangers of complacency. My day-to-day is a mix of working with our teams in both CA and CO to continually drive improvement on our current processes and products as well as looking towards future innovation that will continue to define Coda in the marketplace.
What do you love most about what you do?
It’s an important moment for edibles, as I describe in Coda Signature’s Summer Seasonal Trend Report. We’re navigating unprecedented circumstances, and more people are looking to cannabis for well-being, and I love that my job allows me to create products that reach those people. Every day brings new opportunities to innovate. It’s exciting to be part of such a fast-growing industry while delivering products that respond to contemporary needs for well-being, comfort, and brighter experiences.
What was the best piece of career advice you ever received?
Passion is not a weakness. Often as a woman, being passionate is confused with being emotional. Passion is a suit of armor that makes you invincible to those that want to damper your flame!
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced working in this industry?
The biggest challenge inherent in working with edibles is that you only have one chance to impress. In the traditional culinary world, you have an entire meal to make your mark. But in cannabis, most consumers will only be having one truffle or gummy at a time, and you need to make that single bite count. At Coda Signature, we do it by packing as much flavor and aesthetic delight as we can into every product we create, from our Fruit Notes to the signature truffles that we were originally known for.
Looking to the future, I think brands will face the challenge of adapting to new consumer tastes and food trends. The mainstream culinary industry is seeing more demand for real flavors, natural ingredients, and vegan offerings, and the edibles industry is no different. Consumers expect health-conscious options, and as an industry, it’s our job to exceed those expectations.
For someone that hasn’t experienced edibles before, what would you share with them about Coda Signature’s products?
The classic advice for trying edibles is to start with a low dosage and go slow! Beyond that, I think it’s about experimentation. Similarly to alcohol, everyone responds differently to cannabis-infused products, and you need to learn what works best for your body. However, unlike alcohol, most of us have not had the opportunity to experiment with cannabis in a regulated setting. New consumers are just beginning to explore the cannabis experience, and it’s important to give yourself time to learn how your own body processes cannabis in different formats and situations. It takes patience to become an expert!
Coda Signature is ideal for new consumers, because we focus on creating a consistent experience in every bite. As manufacturers we are very responsible for creating a safe, consistent product. In the same way, you anticipate the same experience every time you go to a restaurant, you should be able to expect the same experience in every edible.
How do you know what foods or flavors will pair well with THC or CBD?
I always try to expect the unexpected! The beauty of cannabis is that it pairs surprisingly well with a variety of flavors — it is an herb, after all.
Cannabis and chocolate are both an excellent blank canvas to create on. I have the freedom to experiment, and I look for flavor pairings that are adventurous and familiar at the same time. The key is to recreate powerful moments that everyone’s taste buds would recognize — like a Cherry Soda (our new Cherry & Sarsaparilla Fruit Notes), a morning coffee break (Coffee & Doughnuts chocolate bars) or popcorn at a carnival (Caramel & Corn chocolate bar). Edibles don’t have to be limited to the same typical cookies and brownies that people have come to expect, and it’s been thrilling to open up the possibilities.
What does success mean to you?
The entire industry is working toward a common goal, and our success is shared. My hope is that with each of our successes, we’ll move closer to an industry that is more familiar and accepted. As manufacturers, I believe it’s our job to keep raising the standard.
Do you have a specific person that’s inspired you or mentored you?
My father has been the biggest inspiration and mentor in life. I treasure every moment and morsel of time I get to spend with him. He committed his career to continuing to immortalize the world of opera by creating the space for new and innovative productions of opera classics as well as opportunities for contemporary composers to tell their stories through song.
He is a masterful listener and compassionate leader. He also makes one hell of a margarita!
How do you practice self-care?
Recently I have started spending ample time gardening. I love to garden because it helps keep me grounded. There’s something about digging in the dirt and growing living plants that help to settle my soul and helps me feel alive inside. Sometimes just sitting in the garden acts like therapy when I’m upset or just need to relax from a stressful day.
If you could go back and give yourself three pieces of advice when you first started your career – what would you tell yourself?
Leadership is about working to ensure the success of your team not sheltering them from the opportunity to make mistakes.
Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. It shows humility to admit when you don’t have all the answers, and the courage to learn something new.
Remember to have fun!
What single word, quote, or saying do you identify most with?
Legacy. I ask my team every day, “What will your legacy be today?”