Chris Sayegh, a.k.a. The Herbal Chef, is a naturally gifted chef who worked culinary magic 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 Braised & Confused, is the leading expert on cannabis and fine dining, and he shared his views on properly pairing cannabis and wine.
Are there tricks to pairing strains and wine, and for that matter, strains and food courses?
You're going to get a lot of terpenes. I have paid a lot of attention to the terpene profiles of the cannabis because that is what the aromatics are. That's what you're going to smell. That's what you're going to salivate over. Some people describe it as piney or skunky or what have you, but those pair well with certain types of food, but the problem is getting the actual strain and the actual terpene profile. Now it's starting to become commonplace where everything is tested, and you know exactly what terpenes are in your bud. It's getting a lot better because now I have the actual lab papers that show me what's what, but before, it was very difficult to pair the terpenes with the wine correctly.
But in reality, you're not tasting any of this. You're not tasting any of the cannabis. I don't want you to taste the cannabis. I personally do not think THC and CBD taste good at all. I know many people that agree with me. I can work with it in high-acidic environments such as tomato sausage and lemon, but really, I'm just masking it. What I've done is found a way so that you're not tasting anything. That's the key for me. This is about a nuanced high rather than tasting the cannabis, because really, it tastes like shit, man. Straight up. It does. It tastes like shit.
Is it theoretically possible for a budtender and a sommelier to take wines and strains and pair them in a way in which they accentuate each other?
It would be naïve of me to say there's no way to do it, but as of right now, with what I know about cannabis, what I know about the terpenes, what I know about the tannins and what I know about wine overall, it's not likely to pair. It really matters how you ingest it, meaning, if you're going to put it in an edible, there's almost no way to do it. If you're going to put it in a joint, no way to do it. If you're going to vaporize it, that is where you can really start to see the pairing come to life.
If you have a very clean rig or bong and make sure to have cold filtered water—basically the cleanest setup you can have with your ash catcher and air diffusers—then you use either a hemp wick or a ceramic heating element to heat the bud, that's when you can truly taste the most out of your weed. It's amazing. That I see being paired with wine.
Also, with extracts being paired with wine, I wouldn't recommend more than a glass or two of wine because eventually... I don't know if you've ever been cross-faded, but it's not fun. You get the spins. I would just say moderation is the key. To me, maybe we don't need to infuse everything with cannabis. Maybe it can just be a nice background to what we're really enjoying. If we're enjoying a wine tasting, maybe smoking a hit before that wine tasting is the perfect amount. Do you know what I'm saying?
Everyone is trying to stuff cannabis into everything everywhere. Maybe we just need to use it where it's appropriate.
Follow the Herbal Chef on Instagram here. Main image from Gaggan restaurant in Bangkok.