Photo by Henry Drayton
Chris Sayegh, now known as The Herbal Chef, first started getting interested in cannabis-infused cooking as a sophomore at the University of California Santa Cruz. Since then, he’s more than paid his dues, putting in time working at Michelin-starred restaurants and eventually rolling out his swanky dining series. His Instagram, bursting with exotic locales and food porn, is so lux it could inspire a Level 1 orgasm. (It also helps he’s kinda a babe.)
Every week, we’re going to be sharing a new edible recipe from a well-respected cannabis chef with our readers. We kicked off the column with our old pal JeffThe420Chef’s Canna-Coconut Lime Shamrock Smoothie. This time around, Sayegh shared his recipe for the savory, light Herb White Bean Cake, which is also vegan and gluten-free.
Over email, The Herbal Chef — who also notably released a documentary on the de-stigmatization of cannabis-infused fine dining — talked to us about the science of cooking with pot, the philosophy behind proper dosing, and the packed agenda his company has on deck. Peep the recipe first, and then continue reading for our chat with the culinary cannabis maestro.
Herb White Bean Cake
Serves 2, 4 oz. each
3g elephant garlic, minced
½ small onion, diced
2 qts vegetable stock
4 T kosher salt
3 T olive oil
1 T black peppercorn
1 cup corn starch
1 cup potato starch
0.11 mg Innovative CBD Cannabis Extract at 75 percent
2 shaved white asparagus per person
1 grapefruit segment per person, cut in half
1 orange segment per person, cut in half
1 heirloom carrot, clean and shaved
Asparagus and carrot prep
Blanche the white asparagus in boiling water for five seconds, then put it into an ice bath to stop cooking. Once it is cooled, cut off the bottom half of the asparagus where it’s fibrous and stringent. Use only the top half. Cut off the very tip and put it in with the white beans to cook down or save for a vegetable stock. Hold the asparagus steady as you peel from the bottom to the top — make sure you’re getting nice, long strips. Put the strips that are the same width down on top of each other and cut into perfect rectangles with keeping the length. You can store these in cold water in the fridge until you are ready to plate.
When you’re ready to plate, lay the heirloom carrot strips out and spritz some plum vinegar on it for sweetness and a small boost of acidity.
Pomegranate reduction method
Start out with ½ cup of pomegranate juice in a pot on medium heat. Reduce by 60 percent. Cool in a bowl over ice. Put in a squeeze bottle and store in the fridge until you’re ready to plate.
White bean cake
In a medium sized pot, cook the small, diced onion on low heat. Add 8 oz. dried chickpeas. Cover with stock and fresh herbs and bring to a low simmer. Transfer to a Vitamix with half the amount of cooking liquid while warm. Add the cannabis extract. We recommend only 5mg THC per person if you are planning on enjoying any other cannabis products. (Use 10mg THC per person if this will be your only consumption.) Blend until you get a paste consistency and adjust with salt and lemon juice. On a ¼ sheet tray, spread bean paste approximately 1-inch thick. Place in refrigerator for one hour to set the bean paste. Transfer onto a cutting board and cut into ½-inch wide wedges.
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In a small mixing bowl, mix the corn starch and potato starch. In a medium cast-iron skillet, sear all sides till crisp.
Make sure all the prep is down before frying the white bean paste.
Start by taking a pinch of sumac and throwing it gentle across the plate to resemble an explosion. Then put the white bean cake down on the plate, off center. Add the grapefruit and orange, alternating the length of the cake. Toss on the asparagus (which should have curled up in the water). Add the vinegar-sprayed heirloom carrots lightly on top of the asparagus circles. Finish with drops of the pomegranate reduction.
Continue reading for our interview with The Herbal Chef.
MERRY JANE: You've said you're a scientist at heart. How is cooking with marijuana more scientific than other types of culinary art?
Chris Sayegh: I don't think it is much different than the practices of molecular gastronomy, to be honest. Every ingredient must be precise and weighed out according to the ratios of the technique (think spherification where there is a specific ratio of calcium lactate in the ingredient to sodium alginate in the water). However, there is an added component of cannabis that cannot be treated like any other ingredient, THC.
We are now dealing with psycho-activity of the human mind which immediately requires a new set of guidance for these types of experiences. On top of that, we are having to study the ways in which we can help patients through ailment targeting via vitamins/nutrients.
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How do you make sure people don't get too lit at one of your The Herbal Chef (THC) dinners?
In the very beginning of THC, I started to implement a questionnaire via email to every guest that would come to the dinner. This helped pave the way for communication between THC as a trusted guide and the guests. What we wanted to create was an atmosphere in which everyone could enjoy themselves without being overwhelmed by cannabis. Through our implementation of the pre-screening (essentially getting to know our clientele more personally) and the way we infuse our ingredients with lab tested extracts, we are able to micro-dose each course, which is essential to our guests’ overall experience.
How do you feel about mixing marijuana-infused foods with alcohol? Would you ever pair an Herbal Chef dinner with a specific bottle of wine, or do you prefer that diners focus on the THC/CBD elements of the meal?
We have very curated wine selections with our dinner pairing. Throughout the years, we have found a perfect blend of light dosage of cannabis with a light pour has been the perfect combination for a consistent euphoric feeling among the dinner guests. We want to keep everyone in a conscious, euphoric state so they are able to enjoy the experience to the fullest. On the other hand, I do not condone the cannabis-infused wines or cocktails; that poses a major threat to our industry, in my opinion, due to the lack of control they have over the dosing. Alcohol speeds up the process of THC and CBD absorption, so if you do not know what you are doing, it can be a dangerous game.
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What do you think people get wrong about cooking with marijuana and other edibles?
I think people tend to not understand fully what the implications of cannabis infusion are. There are so many different levels to cooking with cannabis but often it is looked at in a one-dimensional way. Dosing should be geared towards an intolerant user first; from there, it can be stronger dosing with clearer instructions. I think what edible makers may not understand is that edibles are the clearest and most efficient way to bring cannabis mainstream to folks who are intensely against it.
What are some of the most challenging aspects of your job?
Organization is a very key component to my job. Without it we wouldn't be able to provide a professional service. We pride ourselves on not only quality ingredients and dining experience, but a quality event as well. Most people don't know the amount of hours/days/weeks/months it takes to plan large-scale events correctly. When I say correctly, I mean done with the utmost professionalism to make sure the guests would want to come back again. We plan the music, the flowers, the lighting, the aroma, the dining experience, and the overall ambiance. It can be very intense!
I would say the other challenging aspect is managing all of the pillars of my company. We create our own content, we have two edible manufacturing facilities that we are working with that are launching my edible lines, we have a TV show coming out, and we have our dining events that I need to coordinate. Not to mention the traveling for speaking engagements in order to educate curious consumers! Juggling all of this can wear on me, if I am not mindful.
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How do you think the country is changing its mind about marijuana? How is it becoming less stigmatized and more mainstream?
I think it is very clear that stigmas are changing rapidly at this point. It is hard to argue with the amount of patients that are expressing a deep appreciation and need for cannabis as a necessary component to save their lives. That, coupled with the companies that are making an effort to destigmatize cannabis through education and branding are really helping bring it mainstream. In my mind, food breaks down every barrier that we could have with one another (race, language, sex, etc.) and allows us to connect over something timeless. That is why infusing cannabis with food is a clear way to help push to mainstream for legalization.
What kind of advice would you offer a novice marijuana chef?
Study everything there is to know about CBD, THC, terpenes, and how those molecules react in the endocannabinoid system. If you are really serious, sign up for my classes that can eventually lead you to taking The Herbal Chef Certification courses. You can be a marijuana chef, or you can be a certified Herbal Chef. The difference is in the knowledge, wisdom, technique, and philosophy.
Tell me a little about the dish you're sharing with us today. How did you develop the recipe? Any special memories attached with it?
This is an Herbed Cannalini bean fritter with grapefruit, blood orange, asparagus, heirloom carrot, pomegranate reduction, and Sumac. I created this dish using “Innovative CBD Cannabis Extract” to get a full profile extract, as part of the Health and Wellness-themed dinner for Green Table, a new venture I am involved in that connects top cannabis companies with strategic investors over a night of amazing food and ambiance. Each dinner, we donate [proceeds] to a cause and this dinner was going to the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition to help spread awareness for how much CBD can help athletes. As a former athlete myself, it hits home.
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What do you think of people calling these dinners "trends"? How are they more of a movement or something more permanent in culture?
People talk a lot. To those who truly think it’s a trend, I invite you to my restaurant, Herb, opening later this year. While I think ingestion of THC is subjective to the person, CBD should be a part of our everyday diet to help our endocannabinoid system. That is not a trend — that is scientific fact.
For more information on The Herbal Chef or to book an event, visit Chris’s website here http://theherbalchef.com/about/
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