Chris Sayegh, a.k.a. The Herbal Chef, is a forward-thinking chef who worked tough kitchens at Michelin two-star restaurants in California and as a stage (or apprentice) at the highest-ranked restaurant in the United States. The young gastronomist has since branched out on his own introducing the first Michelin-level cannabis cuisine. Sayegh, who hosts the PRØHBTD series Pot Pie and the forthcoming Braised & Confused, is the leading expert on cannabis-infused fine dining, but getting to this place certainly had its up and downs. The Herbal Chef shared with us his worst kitchen nightmares.
You once did a private dinner at a huge art gallery with the LA Philharmonic String Quartet. How were you able to pull this off, and did you have to tell the gallery and the philharmonic about the cannabis angle?
I did have to tell the gallery. I believe in being completely, 100 percent honest and upfront with that type of stuff. Two, I did not need to tell the Philharmonic. Three, it was the most painstaking thing I've ever done. I did 70 people, nine courses out of a fucking food truck in the neighboring backlot. It was a nightmare. It was ridiculous.
I really brought up a bad memory.
Oh, yeah. Man, there were so many times where I was so close to just saying, "Fuck it. We're calling it off." I'm glad I went through with it. I learned a lot. I lost a lot of money, but I learned a ton. From that alone, I know that no matter what situation I'm put in, I can put it together. That wasn't even the hardest thing. That was like the second hardest thing I've done.
The first hardest was when I cooked for the Porsche Racing Team and the owner of Porsche Automotives North America and the inventor of Gatorade, or one of the four doctors [who invented it]. This was in a $25 million house in Carmel. A lady that I had hired for another dinner previously called me two days before. She like, "Hey, I'm doing this event. Blah, blah, blah. The chef just dropped out. We need a chef right away." At that point, my weekend was booked. I was like, "My whole weekend is booked." She was like, "You can name your price." I'm like, "Really? Are you sure?" She told me who these guys were so I was like, "So I can actually name my price."
I named something ridiculous because I had to cancel all of my plans, and they went for it. I was like, "Okay, we're going to do this." I couldn't get somebody to come up with me for the three days. It was a three-day event, and I was cooking every night. There was a house, and in the house, there were probably 30 people staying there. When I say “house,” I mean this ginormous hotel-like house that was unreal. I called my old buddies from San Luis Obispo, and I was like, "Hey, can you get whoever has the day off to help me? Come up to Carmel and help me for the next two days.” He was like, "Yeah, sure." I set it all up, called them, and he was supposed to show up and just completely did not show up. In the first night alone, I had to make a six-course tasting menu for 12 people, and then I made a family meal for another 20 people. The pit crew got one meal and then the drivers got another.
It was surreal. I did it all by myself. It was just me and the servers. I didn't realize how strong of a cook I was until that moment. Three days in a row, going shopping and preparing everything all day up until that moment. Yeah, it was absolutely insane, but we pulled it together, and it worked out.