The Herbal Chef Aims High

TheHerbalChef
TheHerbalChef

Infused with love for life and people, The Herbal Chef has plans to extend his brand—and himself—beyond all expectations.

To enter the orbit of Chris Sayegh, aka The Herbal Chef, is to become more or less personally infused with the passion he brings to everything he touches. That he has a clear vision for his brand also becomes instantly apparent. Ambitious to the core, with detailed plans for global conquest built upon the foundation of his outsized personality, his ideas are buoyed by a palpable enthusiasm that precedes him like a dust storm of love. Indeed, Sayegh is anything but shy about defining the magnitude of his love, for life, for people, for food, for culture, and of course, for cannabis. As he put it during the first minute of our interview when asked what inspired him to become The Herbal Chef, “I wanted to figure out a way to make a positive impact on the world. My mom always taught me to leave a place cleaner and better than how you find it, and I take that approach everywhere with me in my life.”

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This is no wallflower, but as outgoing and driven as he may be, it is the sheer amount of positive energy that emanates from the young man that leaves the greatest impression, along with the fact that he walks the walk as tirelessly as he talks the talk. As much as one may marvel at the scale of his goals, the amount of work he shoulders on a daily basis boggles the mind. No other individual can blithely accomplish what this man routinely does. From organizing private dinners, parties, and tastings—he calls them experiences—to creating his own line of wholesale edibles and custom cakes, Sayegh epitomizes the fledgling cannabis-friendly entrepreneur whose heart and palate are in the right place. That his current activities pale beside what he has in store for himself in the near- and long-term places him somewhere in the vicinity of “visionary.”

But there is another innate quality that sets The Herbal Chef apart from other cooks, and that is his somewhat unorthodox route to the culinary arts. Yes, he has worked at a few Michelin-rated restaurants in Los Angeles and New York and credits them for providing him a foundation in formal cooking, but it was a relatively short apprenticeship that taught him survival skills, or as he puts it, “Getting thrown to the wolves and working my way up, being the little bitch in the kitchen for months until I learned to carry my weight, and all the skills that really propel me.”

What really propels him, though, and what undergirds and informs his love of food, is his family. “I’m Arabic,” he explains, “and as far back as I can remember we would gather around this incredible food, and I was always so excited to be with my family, my cousins and relatives, and eat. It was such a huge part of my life, and frankly, I never realized how much food meant to me until I moved away. I always cooked, and even did cooking competitions with my friends, but it wasn’t until I didn’t have someone [in particular, his grandmother] cooking regular meals for me that it sank in how much I loved to cook.”

That said, working in professional kitchens did introduce him to the idea of combining his love of cooking with his love of cannabis, albeit indirectly. “My love for cannabis developed when I went to college,” he says. “I became intimate with it and began to understand it more, how it could help me and also how to be responsible with it and still live a fulfilling and active life.”

After working late into the evening in the hot kitchens, he continues, “I would get off work at 1, 2, 3 in the morning and smoke a joint. At the same time, I was getting tired of seeing the same brownies, cupcakes, and Rice Krispy treats, and thought I could do better. So I started baking cakes, entrees, and anything I could make. I knew that cannabis was fat-soluble, which was about all I knew about it other than how to grow it; I had also cultivated cannabis for a while.”

He began taking catering jobs as Chris Sayegh, one thing led to another, and about a year and a half ago, The Herbal Chef, like a caped crusader, was born, bringing his heroic vision to the cannabis-infused, fine-dining dinners for which he quickly has become famous. At no point, he adds with typical pluck, did he doubt they would be successful. “To be honest, I was not concerned with how my dinners might be received, because then I would not focus on the positive. I know so many people who use cannabis in their daily lives that it never occurred to me this would not be a viable business option. I also really understood their value when I got hired for my first cannabis-infused dinner. It was for two people, for a birthday, and it amazed me that they trusted me to do this not in an informal way, but as a chef cooking a meal for a birthday. I’ll never forget that or them, and in fact I am going to cater their wedding.”

He was right. The dinners did take off, cannabis-infused and non-infused, and in the interim months he has expanded his brand to include a variety of other “experiences,” as well as THC- and CBD-infused products for sale in a handful of dispensaries and from his website, TheHerbalChef.com. Scrumptious-sounding treats include Chocolate Drizzle Popcorn (retailing for $20), a ganache bar (also for $20), and Strawberry Macaroons ($10), to name a few dessert offerings. He also makes infused Spicy Marijuana Sauce ($20), Basil pesto ($15), and bottles of Lemon Haze Vinaigrette ($10).

But his pièce de résistance, and the product he says will ultimately cement his fame and fortune, are his CBD and THC frozen meal dinners, which he now sells online for prices ranging from $15-$18, and which he plans to offer in stores far and wide soon. “What I believe my company will become known for over time is the frozen meals. These are nutritiously balanced meals that contain either THC or CBD.” He elaborates, “Patients will also be able to sign up for delivery and work with a nutritionist to determine what ailment they have and what nutrition they need to address the condition, including how much medicine they will need. In this way, they will get both the nutrition and medicine they need. They will also be able to get [the frozen meals] from specialty stores that carry hemp oil and CBD products, which will carry my hemp oil in addition to my CBD-rich frozen meals.”

Until that happens, he sees “the cannabis-infused, fine-dining dinners making the most revenue,” but what will really put The Herbal Chef over the top is Sayegh himself. “Over time, I see my personality, in the form of a television show, becoming very lucrative.” Actually, he is in talks at the moment to start production on an Anthony Bordain-style reality show that will showcase his personality in a way that integrates his love of cooking. Tentatively titled Brazed & Confused, it entails him “travelling around to different areas and shooting the local culture and cuisine, and then perhaps donning scuba gear and going down into the ocean to hunt fish, and then come back and make a beautiful dish. Then the dish will be enjoyed by local chefs or locals.”

The vehicle is also perfect in that it embraced not only his belief in using protein that he has himself caught ort hunted, but his rigorous attention to using only organically grown produce in addition to a cannabinoid oil he makes himself, and whose properties he keeps close to the vest. “The method is propriety, but it is water-soluble and for all intents and purposes tasteless. Also, traditional oils burn off much quicker, at about 165 degrees, which is about the temperature you’re going to cook your white meat. So essentially, you’re cooking off your cannabis. With my method, however, the combustion level goes up to about 290 degrees, so you’re not going to be losing your cannabis.”

It all combines to support his belief in the medicinal properties of cannabis, as well as his dedication to providing health-conscious experiences and products. “I believe in a healthy lifestyle, which to me means not only eating vegan or vegetarian, but eating from the earth, which has an abundance of resources that we are able to use. There is something beautiful about growing your own food and then using it to feed yourself and others, not least because of the attention and discipline it takes to grow something. In return, you get the nutrients. So yes, I use local farms and resources that I know take pride in their produce, and I also go fishing and hunting for my proteins, because I think it’s important to respect where you get your meat and proteins from. A lot of people will eat a sandwich with ham or roast beef and not understand how it got to their plate. There is nothing wrong with the cycle of life.”

That earnestness extends to his dinners, during which he asks his guests—who can pay from $250-$450 per person and up—to place their complete trust in him not only to provide a great multi-course meal and experience, but also to keep them safe in terms of their over-exposure to cannabis. “I need to take care of them and educate them about how to responsibly dose with cannabis,” he explains. “I extend a questionnaire to each guest in which I ask questions such as ‘How well do you know cannabis,’ ‘What type of high have you experienced before,’ ‘What are you looking for from this dinner,’ and ‘How high do you want to get?’ From these questions I evaluate the experience, desires, and boundaries for each guest, and from it I infuse their meal to the appropriate level. I adjust every individual’s experience by the dish and the meal. If I see that a guest is getting higher than they wanted, or that it’s going down that road, I scale back the THC just as a bartender would. It’s up to my discretion.”

It’s an extraordinary level of responsibility that only someone with the supreme confidence of The Herbal Chef would embrace so fully. But assured as he may be, Sayegh is not yet immune to the allegation that his use of cannabis in cooking, and The Herbal Chef brand itself, is just a gimmick. He addresses the charge directly, saying, “I would implore people who think that to do their own research into how effective THC and CBD are in the ways they react with the endocannabinoid system to make it run more efficiently. This is not just about THC, but the food, the fine dining, and the experience, and how it is just an accompaniment to the experience. In the same way a glass of wine is paired with food, I see the same thing for THC. It’s an accompaniment to the overall experience.”

Even more, he wants the world to know that what drives him is not cannabis, money, or fame, but life, and yes, love. “My passion extends to all things, to life,” he says as our interview comes to an end. “Everything in life is a wavelength of energy, and when you personify love, it is seen and felt in everything you do. You can see when an artist is in love with what they are doing, because of how they care about it and how it turns out. And that’s what people see in my food. They feel and taste the love that is personified in the food, and it comes out in an artistic way because I care about it.”

Bon appétit!

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