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 second instalment in our three-part interview with The Herbal Chef. (Also check out part one, which delves into his background and plans for the new restaurant.)
You've compared meals to symphonies, but what sort of music would you compare the munchies to?
I would compare it to dubstep. Because it's very fat and you just want whatever it is. Whatever's in front of you, you just mix and match it and put it in your mouth.
Do you have any guilty pleasures hiding in your cupboard at home?
Oh, my God totally. Chocolate, I always have chocolate somewhere in the house.
But chocolate's respectable. It's not like a Costco-sized bag of Funyuns.
No, no. Fortunately I don't enjoy the chips and that sort of stuff. I say "fortunately" because there's so much in the food world that I could be addicted to in the food world. But I'm gung-ho about chocolate.
What is the strangest ingredient you've ever used?
Strangest or worst? The strangest would be the Oregon grape berry. I hadn't heard of it until I went foraging in Tacoma, Washington for ingredients to feed 70 people. The Oregon grape berry was spectacular. We made a glaze out of it. Sous vide some elk and did an elk and Oregon grape berry reduction sauce.
And what's the worst ingredient?
Oh my God, the fucking Fritos on the PROHBTD show. I had to make it in a dish. I used yuca root and made a croquette out of it with crunched Fritos as the breading.
Did you have to cut the tape to roll your eyes?
Of course. I was like, "Why are we bringing Fritos to the kitchen?" But it's a good challenge once in a while, you know.
And it goes to show there's lots of work for you to do. Because when people hear "the munchies," they probably think Fritos, Funyuns and Doritos.
Totally. And the whole basis of my company is subtlety and education. I don't know if you've noticed but the acronym of my business - The Herbal Chef - is THC. A lot of people don't see that at first. And it reinforces my idea behind subtlety in the cannabis industry. Cannabis is a subtle, subtle plant. In my opinion, there's a way to have cannabis in your life that basically promotes a fulfilling way of existing. A beautiful accent to a long and healthy life. But when you overuse it - and when you overuse anything for that matter - then it takes away from what it can give you. So that's my whole philosophy on it and why I think it deserves some subtlety for the long run. The companies that are going to be here the longest are the ones that understand that.
Cooking with Cannabis
Have you found any ingredients that just doesn't work in a cannabis dish?
When I was experimenting with butters and the oils that were really strong, certain seafoods like mussels didn't work well. But now my process has gotten so much more advanced that I have no trouble either masking or just not having the flavor in there at all. With my water-soluble method, I can put cannabis into anything - including my sorbets and soufflés that take a lot of delicacy.
Is there anything you refuse to make with cannabis?
Anything that's detrimental to one's health. There's a fine line because, you know, Cheetos and all this other stuff can be detrimental to your health. But unless I'm constantly cooking it, then it's fun to try to work with things that people would normally have in their kitchen. I'm not too much of a snob like that. But I won't ever serve it in my dinners.
What bugs you about cannabis cuisine right now?
Some chefs are offering joint pairings with their menus. That really rubs me the wrong way because you can't actually taste the cannabis after the first hit. You're tasting the butane that you light the joint with. You're tasting the paper that the joint is rolled with. And then you're heating up the bud way higher than it needs to be - over 400 degrees with a typical Bic lighter. So that is way passed the point of getting any terpenes, which are the flavor and the aroma profiles.
So there's no way to pair smoking and eating?
The only way that I've been pairing with actual courses is with a clean little bong for everybody and a ceramic heating tip. And then there other way is to have a vaporizer that is flower-oriented. Or you can have an oil, but that can get people a little too high. So if you have a flower vape, you can taste it better and you can keep the high to a lower level.
Why is keeping their high on a lower level important?
The reason I don't want people to get super baked is that I go out of my way to get the best ingredients in the world for them. And if they're so baked that they can't even pay attention, then what was the point? I could go to Smart & Final and get something that'll make them go, "This is delicious." That's not who I cater to. I cater to people who really appreciate food.
Do you have a rule that diners aren't allowed to show up high?
In my restaurant there's going to be huge 'Do not come high' signs. People won't have to worry about getting high there. There's going to be plenty. So come sober so that you can gauge your experience. 'Cause if you come high and you have more, you'll have no idea what did it. And if you have an overwhelming experience, you have no idea where the line was drawn.
Check back tomorrow for the third instalment, which will look at The Herbal Chef's guilty pleasures and some of the stranger things he's cooked with cannabis.