Cooking with cannabis? Pot-based pop-up dinner has Vancouver buzzing

This cannabis infused cuisine is about as far from a pot brownie as you can get. Herbal Chef/ Facebook

When people talk about the “munchies,” they’re usually referring to a post-pot smoking snack binge. Not so for the Herbal Chef.

The U.S. restaurant entrepreneur is working on reversing that idea by bringing the cannabis right into the cooking, and he’s bringing his concept to Vancouver in April.

LISTEN: Cannabis with your pasta?

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Chris Sayegh’s Herbal Chef restaurant concept is based out of Las Vegas, but has gained international attention for its high-concept and amid the growing acceptance of cannabis.

He’s booked out until December and he says he’s getting requests into 2019. But he also takes the concept on the road where he serves up an eight-course meal, built on local ingredients and “boosted” with cannabis.

His menus borrow more from foodie trends and fine dining than they do from pot brownies: think venison tartar, wild mushroom pasta or hand-caught seafood.

“We want to set a standard for what these cannabis-infused endeavours will be like in the future,” Sayegh told CKNW’s The Lynda Steele Show.

“The regulations we’ve imposed on ourselves, as well as what we’re hopeful for the regulations to be, [are] to make sure that everyone has an amazing time, is responsible, gets everywhere safely and we just want to make sure we’re setting the standard everywhere we go.”

So is it legal? Sayegh insists the answer is yes.

On his Canadian tour dates, he’ll be serving up food that’s infused with hemp-derived CBD (Cannabidiol), the non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis that is more frequently used for medicinal purposes.

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That’s in comparison to the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, that creates the euphoric “high” feeling.

Chris Sayegh the “Herbal Chef” is bringing his brand of cannabis-infused cuisine to Vancouver next month. Herbal Chef / Facebook

But while CBD won’t get you stoned, it’s not strictly legal either. Cannabidiol, even derived from hemp, remains on Canada’s list of controlled substance — much to the chagrin of Canadian farmers.

Global News has requested comment on the pop-up from Vancouver police.

Legal questions aside, Sayegh says the event isn’t about getting high but is instead about developing a heightened appreciation for a healthy lifestyle and the medicinal and practical value of the cannabis plant.

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Sayegh argues that mammals are naturally receptive to cannabinoids, and that CBD helps organs function more efficiently.

“You should come and try our food because it will help you paint a better picture of the plant as a whole,” he said. “Imagine taking all of your vitamins every day. This is another vitamin that you should be taking, is CBD.”

While Sayegh said his Vancouver dates won’t be infused with THC, he clearly believes the psychoactive compound has a role to play in cuisine. Indeed, his website describes each course of his meal being infused with one to 15mg of the compound.

That allows him to create a “sensory experience,” he said, with the drug awakening all five of the human senses.

“In order to create a special moment for you throughout the dining experience. And we never overwhelm our guests and we never force anyone into anything,” he said.

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“So if someone didn’t want the psychoactivity they wouldn’t have to get that, they could just get an incredible culinary experience first and foremost.”

In those cases, Sayegh said his group is exacting when it comes to calculating dosages to ensure people stay happy and coherent.

He said they also offer rides to and from their events for safety purposes, though he added that just as when someone goes to a bar, they need to be responsible and aware about what they are consuming.

While cannabis is clearly what differentiates Sayegh’s concept from other restaurateurs, at the core what he’s doing is still about food, he said.

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“Without the foundation of being an extraordinary culinary experience, then I think to me that becomes a gimmick,” he said.

“But when you use this responsibly, you educate the consumer, and you explain the efficacy of having cannabis in your food, then you understand the, really the nature of this, and that it’s much more than getting people high.”

Sayegh’s pop-up dinner will be held on April 6 and 7, and hosted at a secret location.

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