Aim High

A table full of different plates of pastries (soma)

What began as two men’s COVID side hustle supplying edibles to those in the know in New York has blossomed into a viral success.

soma is a NYC bakery that is chock full of delicious goodies. The most remarkable thing about them isn’t even that they’re laced with THC, the active compound in cannabis that gets people high.

This bakery is remarkable because the rotating range of high-profile (sometimes Michelin-starred) bakers, pâtissiers, and chocolatiers who experiment freely to create all of soma’s goodies.

Only contactable via Instagram, the bakery, which is the brainchild of Mo Sahoo, never gives out the names of its chefs. They work in complete anonymity, so as to preserve the separation between their everyday work and their work for soma.

A plate full of baked pastry scrolls (soma)

Image: Sarah Teng

“In the pandemic, the restaurant industry came to a sudden halt. It was immaterial if you were a World Top 50 or a small mom-and-pop shop on the corner, your doors were shut, seemingly permanently,” Mo said.

“Some of the world’s best chefs were deemed inessential, and for the first time, they had time to rest and to decide what they wanted to do (not the owner of their restaurant or the one executive chef).”

Mo convinced his friend Dave Dreifus, a baker, to start a business during this time. To allow the chefs to still be able to claim unemployment during the hard pandemic months, it needed to be a cash-in-hand business.

This is what led to soma selling edibles. Mo had experience with cannabis, having invested in a cannabis company before COVID hit.

“I had access to the best cannabis, the best chefs, and I wanted to create the best experience. I wanted to elevate edibles to be a part of the cannabis conversation, the mental illness conversation, the culinary conversation—all of those stories where such an integral part of my experience was simply… missing,” he said.

“But also, I needed to pay my staff because people come first, always. And this was cash money.”

After the project got started, Mo’s group of chefs came to him naturally. They come to be a part of the process, to experience the freedom of being able to put their own spin on dishes, to incorporate elements of their own cultures. And they are afforded the opportunity to do this away from their ‘real-world’ jobs, as they’re all completely anonymous.

“Every chef at soma works at a world-class restaurant (or owns one, etc.). That’s why I don’t name names!”

The care and love that all involved in soma put into their work has seen the business experience unforeseen success. It currently has waitlists of more than 1,000 people for its products, soma is now branching out into catering dinners and events.

Mo said, “Everyone is on board. That’s the wild part… People have been waiting for edibles they can trust for a long, long time.”

soma’s astonishing success can be attributed in part to the fact that its team is doing what no one else is.

“I’ve never heard of anyone doing anything similar to us in the world. I’ve asked around too… for a variety of reasons, a world-class edible patisserie simply doesn’t exist. In fact, if you look at the world of non-THC, it still doesn’t exist. You can’t go to any bakery in the world and find a different treat every few weeks from a world-class chef that has nothing to do with the bakery’s identity,” Mo said.

A man taking a bite out of an edible (soma)

Image: Dandy in the Bronx

The experience hasn’t been without its struggles though, and they’re not what you might expect.

Mo said, “The struggle is operations… An example, the best chefs taste their food. Period. EVERY. STEP… Tasting an edible every step of the way… is dosing yourself every step of the way. Good luck baking properly when you forget you are baking at all.”

So what’s next for soma? Mo said he isn’t exactly sure.

“We’re working on what legalisation should look like. Should we continue selling? Do we teach chefs? Do we inspire? Are we a legacy brand? Are we a lifestyle brand? I’m unsure, to be honest.

“I’m, honestly, looking for feedback,” Mo said, “I’d love for your readers to DM us with their thoughts.”

But it could be that we’ll soon get a little taste of soma Down Under.

“We’re frequently asked to travel including to Oz, believe it or not!), so we’ve thought about doing pop-ups around the world for a year! Long story short, we’ve got options, and we’re going to take the one that seems the most fun and kind to ourselves.”

But, wherever the journey ends up taking Mo and his team, he says that all he can hope to do is inspire people to choose their own path through the world.

“In the end, soma is a movement. It’s not a person. It’s not even meant to be a world-class company. It’s meant to inspire anyone and everyone to follow their passion and to work with each other to do so.”

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