Los Angeles’ cooking star opens his kitchen’s doors to share his vision of marijuana, one shaped between science and the stove. The Herbal Chef innovates in each dish, merging haute cuisine and cannabis. We invite you to sit at his table.
Herbal Chef Restaurant, in Los Angeles, California, is open since 2014. In the beginning, only medicinal marijuana card holding members could taste its menu. Now, after several changes in weed’s legal status in that State, Chris Sayegh’s business, which mixes haute cuisine and our favourite plant, is on the rise. Viewed as a model by other similar companies, Sayegh creates flavour combinations, “infused” or “non-infused”, to offer his customers the ultimate culinary experience.
His creations benefit from his studies as a molecular biologist in Santa Cruz UC, his work in restaurants of great prestige (like Santa Monica-based Melisse, awarded with two Michelin stars) and his passion for weed. The result is a unique experience, a psychedelic delight for the senses.
Cannabis.es- Tell us, Chris: How did your passion for cooking start? What places have you worked in?
Chris Sayegh-My passion for cooking started with my family. Growing up in a Middle Eastern family is an incredible experience. We spent a lot of time together around a table plenty of food! I grew up and went to college, so I had to cook my own meals. I’ve worked in many different restaurants. The most important one is Melissa, in Santa Monica, a two-Michelin star restaurant.
C.- Why do you use cannabis in your creations?
C.S.- There are many reasons why Cannabis should be involved in the culinary experience. In the first place, because you can surely get high from the plant. But it goes beyond that. The plant is not only incredibly useful in its medicinal varieties, it is also a very versatile type of industrial farming.
When I started my company, my main mission was to take the stigma out of cannabis in the eyes of the world, so that people could use the plant, so that they could really have access to it (medicinally). My passion helped me find the way to focus the fight against the stigma using the logic: by means of food. Everybody must eat. It doesn’t matter what language they speak, neither the race, nor their religion… everybody eats. And when you break bread with somebody, you create a bond. Plus, cannabis feeds your endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is basically the energy core of your body. When the ECS is fed, everything flows smoothly and your whole body runs more efficiently. Then, you have the opportunity of reaching homeostasis. The most bioavailable way of consuming cannabis is ingesting it through food and drinks, or by sublingual consumption. Therefore, eating cannabis is not only nutritional, but also the best way to consume it. CBD should be consumed by every human being daily. THC, on the other hand, depends on the person. To sum it up, this is where our efforts are aimed: to show the world how great this plant is.
C.-What is the first thing a beginner cannabis cook should take in consideration?
First thing is to find out how much THC you are adding to whatever it is you are about to eat. It would not be fitting to serve guests or friends something too strong, something that could overwhelm them. We ultimately want to make this plant palatable to everyone, to give people the option of healing themselves. If we scare them with food that’s too potent, we will harm the whole industry. The only way, to be certain of how much you are adding, is to use lab-tested extracts. That way you know accurately the percentage of THC in the food.
C.-Some time ago, we performed an experiment making cannabis ice cream. What’s better for the ice cream, using butter or flour? What is the secret?
Our advice would be to add the lab extract to the cream while you heat it up lightly in the stove (not exceeding 180ºF-83ºC). Then you make the ice cream in the usual way, without overheating it.
C-What flavour is best for our ice cream? Chocolate, banana…?
CS-Chocolate will be a great balancer for the cannabis taste, if you don’t follow the previous instructions to reduce the bitterness of the plant. Chocolate is acid and sweet, so it could work fine. Nevertheless, when you learn how to extract and infuse properly through our courses, you will be able to infuse any flavour. We do everything, from mango, honey, lavender, peanut butter, etc.
C.-What would be your first advice for someone starting to cook with cannabis?
C.S.- First off, learn how to cook. Then, learn the basics about how cannabis helps the body. Then, combine both being a good cook, given that cooking with marijuana is way more difficult than cooking without it.
C.-What do you think of the cannabis world revolution?
C.S.-I think it’s fantastic! It is a matter of time before it is legalized. We are constantly looking for restaurants around the world that show how to consume responsibly.
C.-What kind of people visit your restaurant? What do other cooks think of you?
C.S.-That’s the most rewarding thing we get from the restaurant: the people. It is a very diverse group of people, who just want to go out to dinner and have a good time. Everybody is a bit nervous in the beginning, and then, towards the end of the meal, new friendships have been born and people end up laughing out loud. It’s an impressive transition.
People in the industry did not agree with me early on. I think, now, they respect what we do, because we take it very seriously. That shows in the fact that the National Restaurant Association asks me to do speeches annually, as well as the American Culinary Federation.
C.-You are a cook of international prestige. What do you think of Spanish Cooking? Will we get the chance to see you here at some point?
C.S.- I am absolutely in love with Spanish cuisine and I have enjoyed it every time I’ve been to the country. The Herbal Chef will be in Spain, definitely. Maybe we could even have supper with some of your readers! That would be an honour.
Spanish cooking has evolved the way we look at food in our country. In the USA, it is typical that, for every meal, a big plate is served and eaten quickly. But, with the influence of the Spanish culinary style, the process becomes a delight that can take several hours. Flavours coming from Spain are unbelievable; seafood is especially good. I’m dying for a plate of Iberian Ham… Can’t wait to be back there!
Herbal Chef Restaurant is placed in Los Angeles, California. For more information, check their Facebook or Instagram.