What’s it like to sit down to a $295-per-person, 10-course, fine-dining, weed-infused dinner? We didn’t know either. That’s how we found ourselves on a late spring Tuesday night, tucking our feet under the table at Chris “the Herbal Chef” Sayegh’s members-only Secret Supper Club and embarking on a globetrotting, time-traveling, history-inspired, horizon-expanding journey neither of us will soon forget — although we can’t recall it with a whole lot of clarity either.
Before digging into the delicious details of our edible odyssey (pieced together from hastily scribbled notes and audio recordings), there are a few things you should know. First, it’s a members-only situation because selling cannabis-infused, restaurant-prepared food isn’t legal in California but selling manufactured THC-infused food such as gummies, cookies or beverages is. (You can apply for membership, which costs $1,000, via the Herbal Chef website, then pay for the dinners separately. For the purposes of this story, we were granted one-night-only memberships.)
Second, they’re serious about the secret part, right down to the password you’ll be provided in your confirmation email (ours was MK Ultra, a nod to the CIA LSD mind-control experiments of the 1950s and ’60s). That’s because the monthly meal unspools in the same Santa Monica space usually occupied by Sayegh’s Nostalgia Bar & Lounge on a night it’s not open to the public.
Third, you get to choose your own adventure cannabis strains and THC-wise. Before you begin, you’re asked for your preferred dosage, which will be divided among the meal’s seven savory courses (the desserts are CBD only). You can go anywhere from zero milligrams — and yes, there really are guests who take that route — to infinity and beyond. Ganja gastronauts who opt for more than 50 milligrams are required to sign a waiver assuming responsibility, and hopefully they don’t operate any heavy machinery after the meal. One of us opted for 10 milligrams of infusion, the other chose 50 milligrams — in the name of science, of course.
“I’ve had someone do 500 milligrams,” our server tells us after being seated. Our mouths dropped. “She was perfectly fine. I would have trusted her to drive me around downtown L.A. Everybody is different.”
Sayegh has been holding infused dinners like this for years, usually in private homes or random industrial spaces around town. He says they were born out of a desire to destigmatize the plant and to push back against what he saw happening in the cannabis-meets-foodstuffs space.
“When we started Secret Supper Club, it was really in retaliation to what was happening in our industry and how many people were being shut down after 10 to 15 years of putting their heart and soul into creating [it],” he says, “so we didn’t really have a theme — other than rebellion.”
Perhaps because eight years and thousands of meals later, he’s got the whole rebellion thing on lock (“We do everything privately, we‘re really lawyered up,” he says about navigating the nuances of what is and isn’t legal. “And we make sure everything is done by the book”), each of the monthly Secret Supper Club meals moving forward — starting with the one we attended in mid-May — will explore a different theme. In advance of our arrival, we were informed via email that our evening’s theme would be “The Origins of Edibles: An Edible Tour Around the World.” It was accompanied by a drawing of a solitary silhouetted figure riding a camel — remember that camel; it’s not the last you’ll hear of it — against the backdrop of sand dunes. (The theme of the June dinner was “Movie Night,” which riffed on dishes seen on the big screen. The theme for the next one — scheduled for July 12 — is “Edio: An Edible Audio Experience,” for which dishes will be based on songs and music albums.)
In the Herbal Chef’s hands, that theme meant packing our bags for 24th century BC China and wrapping up 10 courses later in 20th century Canada. The evening’s departure platform was the dimly lit interior of Nostalgia (for the supper-club scenario, additional tables were set up in the lounge area), and, including our fellow travelers, we totaled 20 in number, which made for a convivial but not crowded, almost train-dining-car feel. That, an Herbal Chef representative tells us, is about the maximum number of diners preferred for each of the two dinner seatings. We also were informed that six of our fellow adventurers had boarded the infused-foodstuffs train at a previous dinner. We sat near one end of the bar, where we glimpsed some of the creative and often canna- or terpene-tinged cocktail pairings being made throughout the night, and within clear view of Nostalgia’s, well, nostalgic pop art: namely a large black-and-white mural depicting cartoons from the last few decades, with the likes of Johnny Bravo, Ren and Stimpy and Pinky and the Brain tailored to the millennial gaze.
“As we go down the menu, we’re going to taste through the different trade routes in which cannabis was passed along as it traveled to the Middle East, India, South Africa, etc.,” Sayegh explained before we embarked on our journey. “And you’re going to see the menu get more imbued with spices, because as the Silk Road opened up, there were spices being traded everywhere. This is a really fun menu for us because we get to geek out, but also it’s really fun because we learned along the way. Every dish is going to have what was available in that certain time frame in that area.”
The cannabis-themed fun wasn’t limited to the menu, either, thanks to theatrical clouds of smoke and vapors that appeared tableside throughout the night. The most memorable of these came at the start of the dinner, when a server floated a perfectly spheroid, aromatic-smoke-filled bubble into the air in front of us. When the bubble floated lazily into a palm held aloft, it popped, releasing a minicloud of stone-fruit-scented smoke.
Find Stephanie’s culinary take on each course below, followed by Adam’s cannabis-focused (and 50-milligram-infused) thoughts in italics.