There never used to be so many choices in regards to edibles. You were getting a loaded brownie or if you were lucky, a crumbled up cookie from your friend’s Ziploc at the bottom of his backpack. The idea to put weed in other foods was barely a conversation and no one knew what they were doing, so failure was inevitable. All that has changed over the years and the days of blindly cooking with cannabis are over. Chef Chris Sayegh of The Herbal Chef shows us his way of infusing this powerful plant and its healing properties in his five course brunch at the Emerald Exchange last weekend (Aug. 12-13).
“It’s a mastery of how to use this herb and understand its properties, understand how to extract it, how to homogenize it and at what temperatures it’s okay to add things in at,” Chef explained. “Also to really know the effects of the terpenes and how it’s going to affect your clients.
Upon entering the HERB Restaurant area of the event, a slight breeze cooled my face and a terpene infused mimosa was brought to me within seconds of sitting down. As I sipped, I took a moment to embrace my surroundings. A beautiful lake equipped with a small island and a curved stone bridge lay in front of me. Each table was decorated with large umbrellas and the best centerpieces I’ve ever seen.
“I didn’t even notice at first until I saw the woman over there pull the bud out from the flowers,” said Robert Keys of Orange County. “So I got my pipe out we all smoked herb at the HERB Restaurant, it was cool.”
As we waited for our first course the servers explained, the napkin rings weren’t there to hold the napkins together, but rather to create a platform for service. I briefly thought, “three rings? That’s different,” turns out once I connected them the right way, a THC molecule was depicted in front of me and my food tastings were designed to be presented that way, nice touch Chef.
“It’s just knowing in depth how cannabis is going to change your perception and then accompany that with the experience,” Sayegh said.
On individual raised cylinders a mini version of an Eggs Benedict, potato croquette and an everything English muffin were delicately placed in the appropriate part of my molecule. But these were anything but ordinary, all the dishes had been infused with cannabis and/or terpenes and they were created by Chef Sayegh. Great care and precision went into each quarter sized toast topped with a mild spinach cream sauce, chive and caviar. And when I bit into the crispy croquette warm gruyere, bacon and tomato flavors filled my palate, instantly leaving me wishing I had more. Lastly, I don’t usually eat bread, but I made an exception for Chef’s everything English muffin that was layered with smoked salmon, sprinkled with caviar. I didn’t regret a bite.
“I’ve really enjoyed this lunch,” Julie Levine of Topanga said. “It’s been a great in the moment experience for me and it’s great to take that time out.”
We still had four more courses paired with bloody marry tastings. How was I to eat a basic meal again? Up next was a beet salad with endive and toasted walnuts, simple but full of flavor. I opted to skip the next course, a steak patty with an uncooked egg yolk, shaved pears and kimchi. I would have been all about it but raw meat isn’t my thing. Which made the anticipation of course four more exciting as I was most curious how Chef planned to plate chicken and waffles, so when I received the vegan alternative instead, I was initially disappointed, until I took a bite.
Somehow Sayegh managed to bread and fry lentils like nobody’s business, so I kept my mouth shut about the mistake and savored every forkful, saving the waffle and herb maple syrup for last. Just as I started to get antsy and ready to see more of the exchange, a plate of French toast arrived with fresh organic berries, meringue and maple syrup ice cream as our final course. I mean… WOW, the cannabis flavor was more predominant, everything paired perfectly and I couldn’t have asked of a better way to end the meal, but they gave it to us anyway.
“The end goal is to get this plant into the hands of people that need it,” Chef said. “To get it destigmatized, people out of jail that don’t deserve to be there, to get people medicine that need it and it’s a much bigger picture that we’re trying to do here.”
Chef Chris Sayegh came out, personally thanked us for dining and gave a small speech about their philosophy while servers passed out a special canna gift. After we indulged, Lowell Smokes handed us all pre-rolls, while another offered eucalyptus towels for our face and hands. We were on the island now and more gifts were being thrown our way, another bag of cannabis goodies, CBD water, free massages with Apothecanna and unlimited dabs in the hash lounge.
“You see now everyone’s enjoying the hammocks, face towels, little petit fours and the little juices,” Chef stated. “It’s like all the little things you don’t realize until you’re like, oh man that sound really good right now.”
According to Sayegh, the philosophy behind the Herbal Chef Team is about micro dosing and how it’s really about a euphoric feeling throughout the dinner rather than about getting super stoned. He wants everyone to take comfort in the fact they’re doing things on another level, precisely to take care of them, which often encourages people to try it. “That’s how we make strides in this industry to destigmatize [marijuana] and get safe access for people that need it,” Sayegh said.
Hopefully I won’t have to wait until the next Emerald Exchange to experience Chef Chris Sayegh’s delicious, unique and innovative cannabis infused cuisine again.