1. What made you want to become a chef?
My favorite part about growing up was having everybody seated around the table with a massive spread of amazing food. As I got older, it was something that I took for granted, and so I got to college where that wasn’t available and it all of a sudden hit me that that was what I wanted out of life, that was the most important thing to me – sharing amazing food with people that I care about.
2. When did you start infusing cannabis into your cuisine and how did that come about?
In about 2010. I was studying molecular cell biology at UC Santa Cruz and I was on track to be a doctor. I was doing all of my science classes and all my chemistry courses. I started to dabble in smoking at the end of my senior year going into college. If I was going to be putting this into my body I wanted to know what I was doing to it. I wanted to know what the effects are, so I started to study the effects of cannabis on human anatomy and what was going on. The more I uncovered about cannabis and how it reacted with the endocannabinoid system and how we have a group of cannabinoid receptors in our brain and our nervous system, for all of the mammalian family, it started to become very clear to me that what we had learned about cannabis was false.
And so I started to do more research and what I was uncovering was that it indeed was made up – it was basically a rival cash crop to big tobacco and to big cotton industries at the time, and to fuel. So what it was doing was taking over those crops and doing so at a lower and more efficient cost. I found out it was political and at that point I made it my mission to really uncover the truths about cannabis. The more I found out, the more I fell in love with this plant and what it can do for humanity. So I started to infuse it in the food because food is the source of life for human beings and it’s something we eat three times a day, if not more. To incorporate something as sacred as cannabis and the cannabinoids that belong to it was a natural next step for me.
3. What’s the biggest difference in cooking with and without cannabis in terms of preparation?
Oh my GOD, it’s so much easier to cook without it! It’s such a science! It takes hours out of my day to figure out dosage for an entire dinner party. So it really comes down to it’s just plain easier without cannabis involved.
4. What do you see happening for cannabis within the restaurant industry in the future?
That’s what we’re lobbying for. We’re opening up the first cannabis-infused restaurant in the world. What we’re trying to do on top of that is create a system of operations that will be replicated throughout the world. This is just a new type of dining experience so we need to pay attention to all of the little details that people go through when they’re high versus when they’re intoxicated. When people are drunk, they’re less conscious; when people are high, they’re more conscious of what their surroundings are, how they’re feeling, how things are making them feel. So it’s really important to take those things into consideration. They go through water much quicker. They have more appetite. They have a bigger sweet tooth. There’s all of these things that come into play.
And then also, you don’t want to overwhelm anybody, so you need to make sure you’re understanding dosage, you need to make sure you’re homogenizing your product so that one person doesn’t get a bite that’s full of THC and another person doesn’t get a bite that has nothing. And then you also have to worry about balancing them out using CBD [cannabidiol – the second most common cannabinoid], so you really have to become a chemist and physician and holistic healer and figure out how to balance the human body using nutrients, cannabinoids, terpenes and nutrition.
5. What was your favorite class in culinary school?
I actually did not go to culinary school. I learned in the trenches of Michelin restaurants. Mélisse
was the most prominent one, which is a 2 Michelin here in LA.
6. What is the newest trend you see emerging?
Communal eating, which is something that I love. We do these communal dessert tables and it was really inspired from Grant Achatz and what he did at Alinea
by plating on the table, and I thought a little bit bigger of why not have an entire table that people then come around and eat off of together. It creates this experience where they get to share with each other. So communal eating is really becoming popular, and communal seating, and I think it’s bringing it back to the dinner table.
7. What’s the strangest thing we would find in your refrigerator?
Oh man. Uh, a fermented beet gastrique, maybe, or smoked chocolate. I have goat’s milk ice cream. Foie gras mousse. That goes on a dessert.
8. Is there one comfort food that you’re secretly obsessed with having at home?
Yeah, stuffed grape leaves. I grew up with them. It’s the most amazing thing in the world. I will forever eat that.
9. Which talent would you most like to have that you don’t possess?
I would love to possess a musical talent of any kind. Most likely the violin or the cello. But I would love to possess insane musical abilities.
10. What’s your favorite meal to cook for friends?
I like cooking braised meats or even large roasts because then I get to enjoy in the eating process and I don’t have to plate it up or anything. I make perfectly fluffed rice with braised lamb shank, and then that reduces into a sauce; and so I put the lamb shank on the rice and pour it over and it’s done! And then I can enjoy with everybody. When I cook my ten course meals I’m working the entire time so I can’t enjoy it with them.
11. Who was your mentor as you were becoming a chef?
That’s tough. I mean the chefs at Mélisse were a big part of my culinary upbringing. But I would say the most influential person is a chef by the name of Gary Nguyen – he is Zagat 30 Under 30. He is also the culinary director of The Herbal Chef now. But he was a big part of keeping me going even in the hardest of times.
12. If you could cook for and dine with anyone, who would that be?
Dead or alive? Albert Einstein is one of my most prominent spirits that I really look up to.
13. What can attendees expect from your session at the 2017 Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo?
They can expect to learn a lot about the cannabis industry as a whole; about the community that curates the cannabis industry; and about the market, the trends, and what is really being brought to the table in terms of innovation for the culinary and cannabis industries.
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More about Chef Sayegh:
Christopher has pioneered the effort of Cannabis Infused Fine-Dining to elevate the perception of Marijuana into mainstream media. These dinners include art, music, fine wine and top notch ingredients, simultaneously and effortlessly educating his audience while entertaining them at the same time. Currently, Chris is producing gourmet edibles, frozen CBD and THC-infused dinners, as well as catered and private dinners. With the innovation of the Frozen THC/CBD infused Meals and the two television shows being produced about The Herbal Chef, Chris has already been able to solidify his space as the #1 Cannabis Infusion Chef in the World.