Eating for Escapism with Patisserie Soma
It's time to talk about some very fancy edibles
Happy belated 4/20. Do you want to hear a story?
Too bad, you opened this email, you’re a captive audience now.
See, last summer I was bored and asked my friend Mohit Sahoo to hang out. He said he was busy with a work thing, but if I wanted I could come help with it and get high. For most serial entrepreneurs, those things wouldn’t necessarily go together. But most people are not Mohit Sahoo.
Sahoo and I and a world-class chocolatier spent the rest of the day in a rented U-Haul without enough seats (he somehow spent the whole afternoon in a bungee-corded lawn chair in the back, desperately holding onto boxes of incredible edibles), delivering jaw-dropping, delectable weed-infused pastries all over New York City. I can tell you from first-hand experience that these pastries would be popular anywhere, with or without cannabis in them.
The whole day was a comedy of errors. Our route didn’t make any sense, and we needed to hit every borough. Sahoo was rattling around in the back of the van the whole time. Edibles were traded for bread delivered via a pulley system from a second-floor apartment. But despite all of that ridiculousness, it was a pretty great day and one that drove Sahoo’s decision to stop doing delivery himself.
For me it drove home the inescapable fact that most edibles are nothing like what Sahoo and his cadre of anonymous chef friends make at Patisserie Soma.
There are many reasons for this—it sure helps to know folks who’ve worked at places like Per Se and Eleven Madison Park—but perhaps the most important difference between Soma’s products and say, your average weed gummy, is that Sahoo has been surrounded by the marijuana business for most of his adult life, and as such, knows just about everything there is to know about it.
Sahoo is allergic to alcohol, so he’s never been able to participate in a huge part of American party culture. After meeting up with a date at a restaurant, he’s never had the option to relocate to a bar and relax with a couple of drinks, so heading back to his place to smoke has always been a pretty handy replacement, if one fraught with inexperienced dates getting too high.
Throughout the early 2010s, Sahoo helped out old friends in North Carolina with their weed businesses, since he was the “Indian kid in the nice car, probably not going to get pulled over.” He and his friends used to trade weed for haircuts. Despite the illegality of the whole thing (marijuana possession remains illegal in North Carolina), “I got comfortable, and the reason that that’s important is that when I moved up here in 2016, I got into delivery.”
Sahoo is a marketer, so it only took one visit from a dealer with an inaccurate selection for him to ask, “the delivery driver, ‘Hey, you should let me fix your menu and give me some free weed.’” Pretty soon, an Uber was sent to pick him up and drop him at a restaurant in New Jersey. One thing led to another and before long he was talking to “the big guy” about all the things he thought could improve their business.
“The reason that’s important is that when we started our bakery in the pandemic, I already had equity in the company. I had a really good deal on the weed… Right around the same time, an influencer asked for cookies, but edible, and was willing to pay a lot of money. So I just said, ‘Ok, I’ll use the best weed.’ And that influencer said, ‘This is literally the best edible I’ve ever had in my life. What did you do?”’
His chef knew how to source amazing ingredients, and he decided to use even better weed than he smoked for the edibles. That influencer posted about how great the edibles were, and suddenly Sahoo was swamped with requests for baked goods that get you high.
“Honestly, I got mad. I was like, I don’t want to do cookies and brownies. I want to do something awesome.” He teamed up with the aforementioned chocolatier and pastry chef, who made tarts filled with makrut lime curd and ube-filled morning buns.
Since then, Patisserie Soma (named after a psychoactive drink important in early Vedic rituals), has invited a rotating cast of anonymous culinary stars to experiment their hearts out. From savory pies to raspberry chamomile profiteroles, Sahoo gets to indulge both his passion for sweets (he’s a self-proclaimed sugar man) and his expertise in the marijuana business, combining them into a product he’s extremely proud of.
One reason why is that as the cannabis gray market in New York City gets more and more active, “What a lot of people are failing to realize is that on the surface there’s a lot of little things that are like, ‘Oh, yeah, we made edibles and they taste good.’ But there’s a lot of things down in the bottom that you really have to figure out. Dosages and what people like. How you approach people. What people are willing to explore. And there’s a lot of science behind a lot of what we do in terms of extraction. When you’re puting something in someone’s body and they feel a certain way, that’s an omega-level complication.”
Sahoo is convinced that there’s about to be an explosion of people “not having a good time” with weed. Customer education is extremely important in selling anything psychoactive, and “your cheap vodkas of the world are ruining it for the nice vodkas because, hey that sixteen year old just died.” Cannabis is less dangerous than alcohol, but the analogy is still relevant because most marijuana consumers don’t actually know what they’re talking about. Once New York’s properly legal market is fully established, he predicts that many, many people who have never tried it before will experiment with marijuana, and if they’re not given clear information on the right ways to do that, mistakes will be made.
“Weed is not ramps, and I think a lot of chefs are going to find that out the hard way… A lot of what I’ve had to work through with chefs is to get them off of their ‘chef thing’ where they’re tasting everything. Oh, I tasted everything and I had a hundred milligrams accidentally and now I’m too high to cook. Or, oh the food doesn’t taste as good and it’s okay because there’s weed. None of that is ok.”
He went on to point out that your average person does not remotely realize the wide variety of people who are already regular marijuana customers, and that one advantage of selling high-end edibles is that those people come from all walks of life. I have first-hand experience with telling a major celebrity about Patisserie Soma, seeing his entire face light up, and asking for Sahoo’s contact information.
This kind of excitement around what he’s doing has become pretty normal for Sahoo. He’s especially proud of the makrut lime curd tart, their take on the classic NYC black and white cookie, and, ironically, Soma’s brownie. Most people think of edibles as inferior in taste to comparable baked goods without marijuana, but, “We don’t do that. We think of it as a bittery, herbaceous addition… If you’re looking at your brownies, you should be using espresso and sea salt and hazelnut, dark flavors, because they’re going to go well… If you’re going to have an overwhelming flavor, then just go in. Make it strong. For us, that’s important.”
Despite having a 1,000-person waiting list, Patisserie Soma has been operating very quietly up until this week. As New York’s marijuana gray market grows to include storefront after storefront flagrantly skirting the rules, Sahoo decided it was time to tell the world about what he was up to, a decision that culminated in an Insider article that dropped earlier this week. That’s a little bit scary, but it’s also exciting because he thinks it’s a perfect opportunity to be an example to culinary entrepreneurs who want to experiment with cannabis.
Sahoo has strong opinions about being an example to potential competitors and providing customers with an experience, and once they feel a sense of comfort and control over so they don’t end up too high to have a good time. He hopes that people will, “have fun, and then accentuate it. You’re supposed to have a time. That’s the point of Soma.”
You can find Patisserie Soma on Instagram at @relaxwithsoma