Like any chef, Christopher Sayegh is focused on using the very best ingredients to make the very best meals for food lovers. That ingredient list includes cannabis - the very best cannabis, of course.
Sayegh (a.k.a. The Herbal Chef) throws pop-up dinner parties with a cannabis twist. He also hosts Pot Pie, a cannabis cooking show on PROHBTD's YouTube channel. And next year, he'll be opening Herb, a cannabis restaurant located right on the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica, California.
These projects are all part of his plans to elevate cannabis culture. To find out more, we spoke with Sayegh about his work, his vision and the future of culinary marijuana. Here's the first part in our three-part interview with The Herbal Chef.
The Restaurant Experience
Can you tell us about the upcoming restaurant?
It's going to be fine dining. And it's all going to be local and fresh. Basically what I do for my pop-up dinner but a little bit more concise and oriented more toward shareable plates. When you purchase a ticket to my restaurant, you'll also receive an Uber ride there and back. We'll also have a menu of mocktails and we'll have a menu of cocktails and wine, but we won't let you mix alcohol and cannabis unless you do the 10-course meal or the five-course meal with a wine pairing.
Why is that?
Because then everything is controlled. Whereas if you were to come into the dining room and say, 'Hey, I want this cocktail and this cocktail. And I want 20 milligrams of THC and blah, blah, blah.' Then you mess yourself up and that looks poorly on us.
And you want to promote responsible consumption.
Basically. Since no one's done this before, I'm setting the standard for the future of cannabis and culinary.
So no pressure.
Yeah (laughs). That's right, no pressure.
Is the Uber ride part of making sure people consume safely?
Correct. And we'll also be partnering up with Presto Doctor to do the medical recommendations. So on the Uber ride there, you can Facetime and get your medical card.
Will the restaurant just serve medical patients or recreational consumers too?
Both. We want to serve both clientele.
Tell us how you turn dinner into an experience?
The dinner is a symphony and I'm taking you on a journey that has its ups and downs. Right after you ingest cannabis, you're not going to feel anything. But 30-40 minutes afterward, you'll start feeling the effects. Then 25-30 minutes after the initial affect of euphoria, you'll start getting the munchies.
How do you prepare food to suit those different states?
When you're euphoric and you're still on your come up, I'm giving you light dishes - stuff that pleases the palate. Light and clean and airy. As you hit the munchies stage, you're going to get your main courses, which are a bit bigger and heavier to satiate the munchies. Right after that - when you're back in the state of euphoria - you want something sweet. That's where the desserts come in - usually petit fours that are paired with the art on the walls.
You've put a lot of thought into this - more than people might think based on the premise.
Right, that's because I've actually studied cannabis and I understand what's going on. And that is what I think gives me an advantage with what's going on with all the new cannabis chefs. I don't think anybody knows cannabis and culinary like I do.
What sort of music do you play during a dinner?
For my public launch, I have the L.A. philharmonic string quartet there. And I've had live spoken-word poets perform. Or some R&B in the background. It really depends on what kind of mood I'm trying to facilitate.
So this really is an event - not just going out for dinner. This is a complete sensory experience.
Exactly, and that's what I call them - cerebral experiences. Anybody can get you high. Anybody can get you super baked. That's too easy and there's not enough finesse in that.
The Herbal Chef's Roots
What made you get involved in cannabis cuisine?
The whole reason I got involved was to make a positive impact on the world. Whatever I chose to do, that was my main goal. Then I started to realize what I truly loved was getting together with people, traveling and eating food - spreading happiness and healing people through food. So it came naturally to me that food would be a part of my life - especially considering my background. Being Jordanian, this was just part of me and I didn't realize it until I went to college. And then I started to study cannabis. And I put two and two together towards the end of my sophomore year and I basically just took off from there.
Were you studying culinary arts at college or something completely different?
I wouldn't say I was doing something completely different but pretty different. I was studying molecular cell biology. And then I left to pursue my dreams of becoming a chef.
Planning to use that background one day to breed special cannabis strains as ingredients?
Oh, 100 percent. There are so many things going on that I'm so excited about. It's ridiculous.
How do people react when you tell them you're a cannabis chef?
I don't tell them I'm a cannabis chef. I tell them that I'm a chef and that I specialize in working with cannabis. I don't see the distinction between the two as long as you're actually a chef. I feel like there's a bit of a gimmick that goes on when you put weed into food. You know, obviously people are going to like it because they're high. But I take it probably way too many steps further and make sure what I do is create an experience for people.
How do people react to the food experience?
The general reaction is surprise. I've heard a lot of people say, 'Oh my God, I can't believe that wasn't done before.' And I hear a lot of people say, 'Oh my God, I had that idea too.' And both reactions are humbling because I had this idea maybe eight years ago. And I went to the first Arcview Investors Summit six years ago and I pitched my idea of a cannabis restaurant. And I was told that we weren't there yet and that there's no way to do it and blah, blah, blah. Long story short, I'm now opening up the first cannabis-infused restaurant next year.
Check back tomorrow for the second instalment, which will look at The Herbal Chef's guilty pleasures and some of the stranger things he's cooked with cannabis.