By Dizzy Cordova, Sam C. Long, and Ronit Pinto

“I used to be a jack of all trades, master of none,” says John Seymour, founder of The Sweet Chick. “Now I’m looking at myself like, jack of all trades, still trying to master myself.”

Who Is The Sweet Chick Founder John Seymour?

In person, the man is philosophical and humble, a rare combination these days. In reputation, he’s one of New York City’s greatest tastemakers. Seymour’s The Sweet Chick, which he operates in partnership with hip hop icon Nas, has become a legendary spot, particularly in its Lower East Side location. It’s a meeting place for culture shapers from Slick Rick and Joey BadA$$ to new artists like Young Money’s Drizzy P. Sometimes, it’s a film set or the site of fashion collaborations with FILA, Vans, and Aime Leon Dore; other times, a recording studio, such as the marathon session that Bun B and Statik Selektah did at the venue last fall to lay down their Trillstatik 2 album live. (That epic night featured Paul Wall, Smoke DZA, and Emmy winner Armand Assante among the players.)

This year marked Sweet Chick’s official tenth anniversary, a decade of music, fashion, sensory splendor and barrier-breaking at the great chicken-and-waffles restaurant. The brand now has five locations across New York City’s boroughs and one in Los Angeles. Patrons can enjoy the regular series Sounds Good, where emerging and classic artists perform. Who could have imagined a wild kid from Yorkville would create all this?

The Sweet Chick founder John Seymour at the restaurant's famous Ludlow location (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

Check out highlights from Honeysuckle's interview with John Seymour:

John Seymour's Life In Hospitality, Music, And Cannabis

Born and raised in New York, John Seymour’s story is as epic as his company’s. The son of Irish immigrants who worked respectively as a nurse and a bartender, he describes himself as growing up without much, but always with the sense of how the hospitality industry could expand one’s horizons.

“Food ties people together,” he observes. “Music ties people together, cannabis ties people together. Things that people share that are common, and then you get to meet more people.”

Cannabis is an important lynchpin in that equation. Seymour knew the plant from his teenage years, thanks to an older brother who dabbled in legacy spaces (and on different occasions made him eat a joint and leave the house with an ounce taped to his leg). The entrepreneur remembers his brother always smoking weed, and despite wanting to remain “bad boy-adjacent,” Seymour soon got familiar with all the best strains. 

John Seymour with The Sweet Chick Ludlow's manager (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

How Did Cannabis Shape New York For John Seymour?

“Chocolate Thai, Hydro, Haze,” he rattles off in a history of New York classics. “I wasn’t smoking Sour Diesel, but I remember when it was $7,200 a pound…Sour Diesel was doing crazy numbers, and it was what everyone wanted to smoke all night long. There were Jack Herers, all types. Then Kush came. Canada was sending down tons of bud and it went through a bunch of fads: Pink Kush, Purple Kush, Bubba Kush. Then Colorado had bud they were sending to New York, and then [California]. Cali had all the light [deprivation-grown flower], Sour Diesels and Headbands and all these crosses. These go for like 26 out West. In New York, you could move them for 63.” A true gourmand, Seymour has a sophisticated palate when it comes to food and cannabis. Today he loves trying new cultivars and ancient ones; he remarks that an AK-47 strain from Afghanistan “tastes like a mother plant. I could tell this was a plant that had been around a long, long time.”

He continues, “Cannabis has been a constant in my life one way or another… As I sit in front of a brand that I built for over ten years and I smoke a joint, the cannabis industry has been stigmatized [and] looked down upon as drug dealing. But here we are now legal, in world where alcohol has been legal for some time… And as somebody who holds multiple liquor licenses, I think it’s interesting to watch the cannabis industry unfold. Now that it’s hit New York, for me it feels personal and real. New York is such a beacon that as it evolves here, we’ll see how it really plays out as an industry nationally.”

A reverence for culture and a relentless work ethic have served the epicurean well in The City That Never Sleeps. Seymour lost his father at age 19, but followed in his footsteps by working as a bartender (and, like his dad, the young man would struggle with alcohol before committing to sobriety). He acquired many skills in his 20s, taking stints as a doorman, mover, electrician and more before opening his first restaurant, Pops, in Brooklyn. 

And even when he wasn’t smoking, the plant always brought him connections. “I had so many friends in the black market,” he recalls. “That kind of inspires people; if you’re successful in that area, you learn skills and you can apply that in other areas as well… The restaurant business is similar. It’s notoriously hard, and there’s a high failure rate. And in entrepreneurship, you need to be your own businessman at the end of the day in any field. So I’m kind of a pirate [like the weed and hip hop guys]… I’m not really in cannabis. I’m not specifically in the music industry, either. But I’m around certain circles connected to certain things.”

Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

How Did Hip Hop Icon Nas Get Involved With John Seymour And The Sweet Chick?

Certain circles like those of Peter Bittenbender, CEO of the acclaimed entertainment company Mass Appeal, who first introduced Seymour to Nas. That would prove to be a match made in heaven.

“They call him a hip hop god,” the restaurateur comments. “He was 18, 19 when Illmatic came out, he was young and already doing it. The guy’s poetry is deep. He’s an inspirational dude.” 

Nas is also responsible for one of Seymour’s favorite Sweet Chick memories of all time. During the brand’s collaborations with Vans, Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan was scheduled to headline an event celebrating the project. That night, Nas happened to be in town and pulled up, totally unplanned, for a special performance with his old friend. 

The Sweet Chick could be seen as the modern iteration of historic jazz clubs, which combined the hot music of the day with Southern comfort food - that’s also where chicken-and-waffles was born. Seymour believes that “Nas jumping onboard as a business partner directly tied us to music. Artists, friends, and fans come by all the time. We’ve cultivated the community around that.”

Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

Check out highlights from Honeysuckle's 17th print edition launch at The Sweet Chick, featuring cover artist Havoc of Mobb Deep!

Why Is The Sweet Chick A New York Cultural Staple?

They’ve done spectacularly, with the brand now getting into franchising and garnering a $5 million investment from Founders Table Restaurant Group, the parent company of Dos Toros and Chopt. But how did The Sweet Chick evolve into a cultural destination?

According to Seymour, “It was really the hospitality that got to [people]. The food, the environment, and the music, which was really [curated] by the staff. We hired a lot of people close to it. As we develop the brand, I want to make sure it’s good music. [Our series] Sounds Good is kind of a music platform for us as well… But we cultivated a following in New York, which came from the staff too. Customers would feel very welcomed, and the staff would remember people. You become a community.” 

“I feel very blessed that I get to do what I do for a living,” he adds. “I’m very grateful for and conscious of the people who work for the company. We’re doing something together. I try to find creative ways to incentivize them, but we also like to include our community and are creating initiatives where we can get in where we fit in, give back, and develop as a brand. I hope we can bring this to a national level. That’s a real goal for Sweet Chick.”

Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture

Reflecting on the future of food, music, and cannabis in New York, Seymour is all smiles. He shares a story about being invited by the NY CannaBusiness Chamber of Commerce to a party at Gracie Mansion, the home of Mayor Eric Adams, not long after adult-use was legalized. The Mayor announced, “Weed is legal - somebody should light up!” A small spark arose from someone nearby, and it was none other than CJ Wallace, CEO of the cannabis brand Frank White and the son of late rapper The Notorious B.I.G.

“For me as a fan of hip hop and Biggie,” Seymour states, “and seeing his son flourish in cannabis too, that was amazing… We use [Biggie’s motto] ‘Spread Love’ at our restaurants. It’s very cool to see the synergy of it all. New York is a pivotal place.”

Who better, then, to be one of New York’s most magical impresarios (even if he’s undeclared about it) than one of its native sons who embodies the American success story? From scrappy beginnings to living each day as a literal cultural feast, John Seymour’s very existence is the stuff of myths. All hail the Sweet Chick life - and its Pirate King. 

For more about The Sweet Chick, visit or follow @sweetchicklife on Instagram.

*A version of this article originally appeared in Honeysuckle's 17th print edition, featuring Havoc of Mobb Deep. Get your copy now at dispensaries nationwide or click here to order!


Written By:

Dizzy Cordova is the founder and CEO of Neon Heights, a Woman and Minority-Owned, state-licensed cannabis retailer based in New Jersey.

@dizzycordova (IG)

@neonheightsco (IG)

@NeonHeightsCo (Twitter)

Sam C. Long is Honeysuckle's Creative Director. He is a filmmaker, photographer and visual artist. Find out more about Sam at

@tissuekulture (IG)

Ronit Pinto is founder and publisher of the award-winning creative media house Honeysuckle Media, Inc. A journalist, filmmaker and producer, Ronit has spearheaded many groundbreaking initiatives such as the first campaign to feature cannabis and hemp brands on Times Square billboards, which changed decades of advertising in NYC. Among her and Honeysuckle's honors, Ronit won the Green Market Report Women in Media Leadership Award in 2022 and was named a New York Cannabis Power Player by AMNY in 2023.

@honey_ronit (IG)

@honey_ronit (Twitter)


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Featured image: The Sweet Chick founder John Seymour at the restaurant's famous Ludlow location (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture