Juicy J holds a single flower with a pair of extra-long tweezers cautiously, as if the tiny bloom is a hunk of uranium. His hand seems to lilt ever so subtly, pulled to the right by three heavily studded gold rings. But the rapper gets it together and, at the last second, sticks the landing.
The purple and yellow pansy sits perfectly off-center atop the green pea mousse, over the white asparagus, next to the pink lobster meat. “Damn! This is some dope ass art right here,” says Juicy, 41. Chef Chris Sayegh, 24, beams from over his star student’s shoulder, content with the day’s lesson. Juicy finishes his thought: “People are going to be like, ‘What? I can get high from eating this?’ ”
Sayegh is best known as The Herbal Chef, and we’re in his Hollywood apartment watching him literally infuse fine dining with California cannabis culture. It’s something he has been doing for private clients for the past few years, charging up to $500 a head for as many as 80 guests, to serve upwards of 15 marijuana-spiked courses. He plans to open a restaurant, Herb, in August. The Memphis MC, also in the pot biz, has his own strain, Green Suicide, which he’ll promote on his winter tour. “I’m coming to your city and, if it’s legal, I’m throwing out weed,” he vows for his new LP, Rubba Band Business, due in February.
Before Juicy arrives, Sayegh weighs his per-dish doses, using a tiny spoon to scrape the amber goop into a tiny bowl that he holds over an open flame until the room smells verdant. He mixes some into a saffron tartar he’ll serve with the charcoal tempura fried sculpin he caught himself. Another glob goes into the mousse. “I get it lab tested so I know how much to put in,” says Sayegh. “I didn’t want to go too heavy for J. I’m sure he has things to do today.” When Juicy arrives though, he produces a blunt from his Marvel Comics lunchbox, and it’s his turn to give direction: “Hit that hard, man!” shouts Juicy. “Go to the moon with that shit! Think ‘moon’! Get in there!”
During the next hour, Juicy chops veggies, scoops caviar and learns how a sous vide machine works. He claims his kitchen know how begins and ends with “making a nice glass of water,” but when they finish, he’s plating like a pro. And if you ask what he enjoyed about the demo, he doesn’t even mention the high. That bodes well for the chef, who doesn’t want weed to be the focus. “All the flavors work in balance, and if you f— that up with a grassy bitter taste, it’s terrible,” says Sayegh and the trip is customized to the diner’s tolerance level. “Edibles get a bad rap,” he continues. “What I made sure of was that the experience I give people is joyful rather than overwhelming.”
After all, Sayegh is a chef first. Though he studied the effects of THC in pre-med at the University of California in Santa Cruz, that’s mostly because he was a stoner. He dropped out to pursue cooking and wound up in Michelin-starred restaurants in Los Angeles and New York. The weed just “added another dimension.”
His clientele has been eclectic. Some hail from the tech world. Others are on TV. A few made him sign nondisclosure agreements. Juicy toys with the idea of throwing an Herbal Chef-hosted fete. “I’d invite everybody,” he says. “Kanye West. The Weeknd. Wiz Khalifa. A dope chef with dope food and you can get a buzz? Wiz would be like, ‘Yo, quit what you’re doing. I want to hire you as my private chef.’ ”
But with numerous states legalizing the use of recreational marijuana, some of Sayegh’s clients have become investors in Herb. He’s even ironing out partnerships with Uber to transport patrons home safely, and pondering a hotel package deal. “Stoners are uniting,” says Juicy. “Everything is possible.”