Who thought that on December 31st 2019 the word “Zoom” would become a household name and conjure up flashback’s to the PBS children’s show from my youth. 2020 has been a crazy year we all want to put behind us, the year started like any other with plans for travel, eat my way food festivals and anticipating new restaurant openings. Two months in things changed and 2020 wasn’t going to be typical year. It got serious for me when around St. Patrick’s when the NBA put the season on hold. Before you knew it lock downs were in place, toilet paper was at the top of every bodies doomsday “must have” list and distilleries were making hand sanitizer.
Zoom to a virtual happy hour then a Teams meeting as businesses learned to pivot their business model on a moment’s notice. April and May were like a hazy version of Groundhog’s Day and I was foodie version of Bill Murray’s character. Eating in parking lots and collecting plastic utensils became the norm, taking out from neighborhood favorites wondering how dine-in restaurants are adapting. Some restaurants took a hiatus to figure it out, others stocked up on to-go containers and others closed all together. Food festivals and small, medium and large gatherings were cancelled on a daily basis as many still are into early 2021.
In mid-May when Governor Ducey lifted restrictions while adding new restrictions for restaurants we wondered if we would dine-in and was it safe even wearing masks and washing our hands. I thought I would still do take-out and eat in parking lots or take food home. On Day 2 of dine-in I found myself sitting at the bar alone at The Stockyard’s Restaurant for a burger. To this day I haven’t been afraid to dine-in early and before restaurants get crowded by 2020 standards. By the time summer rolled around more people were venturing out & about and us foodies started to gather. Not at festivals but cautiously as new restaurants began to open after several delays.
I’m still not sure what my final meal will be for 2020 or my first meal of 2021. Still pondering my future meals I’m looking for what 2021 will bring. Less Zoom meetings for sure, in the food world I’m curious how Arizona’s new legalization of recreational cannabis will open new opportunities for cannabis infused meals, foods and restaurants. What new restaurants will be anticipated and which favorites will close their doors. What will the long term effect will 2020 have on local businesses and society? Many un-answered questions going forward into 2021 but I do know one thing……in order to survive we MUST eat and drink. Cheers and to a better 2021!!!
Arizona largest cannabis dispensary, The Mint is holding a contest to find the best cannabis infused recipe. Through June 30th, Arizona card holders 21 years of age and older are encouraged to submit their creations. The winning recipe will be featured in The Mint’s kitchen to join other menu items for to-go orders. Cannabis infused foods with less sugar help people battling everything from cancer & epilepsy to Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.
Entrants need to their share recipe, idea or creation along with the proposed name, key ingredients and description. 10 finalists will be judged by a panel of chefs by July 1st and a grand prize winner will be announced on July 10th which is when the industry celebrates cannabis concentrates and extracts. The winner will also have their recipe in a cannabis infused cookbook to be released in August. The winner will receive $2,500 in cash and a $2,500 donation to a food bank in their name. Sales of the cookbook will also be donated to food banks who have been struggling to feed people the last few months.Recipe submissions are being accepted until 11:59 p.m. June 30th 2020 and can be sent to Recipes@TheMintDispensary.com. The Mint has a dispensary in Mesa and Guadalupe with a third planned to open this year in north Phoenix.
When I caught up with chef Derek Upton for lunch recently I was surprised our paths hadn’t crossed before with our mutual interest in food, cannabis and the local restaurant community. Spending over an hour speaking with him about everything from food, cannabis & CBD, music and cell phones I realized we will be hearing more from him in the future.
Growing up in Fresno, Derek took to drumming at an early age at church. He didn’t think it would take him around the world playing for national acts, into the recording studio or playing his last gig at the American Music Awards. When life on the road began to take its toll he went to pursue a second act as a chef. Growing up in an Italian Portuguese family helping to cook meals at home he knew what he wanted to be back in the kitchen.
He wound up in Phoenix after touring with Scoti Slate and returned after attending The Institute of Technology in Clovis in 2012 and 2013 where he studied culinary arts and the business side of the restaurant industry. Derek made a name for himself in Phoenix working at Evo, Cafe Monarch, Original Gravity, The Windsor, Beckett’s Table and most recently The Breadfruit. He’s been the private chef to celebrities David Spade, Henry Rollins, Michael Rapaport and Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Derek Upton cooks with cannabis
Educating himself on the benefits of cannabis and CBD became personal. It’s changed his life and ignited his passion for it as he once weighed over 500 lbs. He’s dropped over 150 lbs. since his journey started and wants to lose 150 more. As cannabis becomes legalized around the country Derek found that cooking with cannabis is what he wanted to do. Cannabis is more than the psychoactive THC that many associate with the plant and he’s looking to redefine the stereotype. Educating others of its health benefits in cooking and telling his story is how he’s going about it.
Using Instagram and other social media platforms, Derek parlayed his use of cannabis in cooking and being hired for private cannabis dinner parties to opportunities on TV. His recent appearance on Netflix’s “Cooked with Cannabis” was the start of another chapter in his life. Unlike most chefs who aspire of owning their own restaurant Derek wants to continue to cooking for others in a private setting and producing cooking shows and videos. Although cooking with cannabis is his specialty he does cook without it as well. Our lunch fell between conference calls where he’s discussing media and ambassador opportunities for the next phase of his career.
He does a lot behind the scenes connecting cannabis related businesses to one another to help move the cause forward. He’s currently filming his own TV show “Stay Hungry” and is on Instagram and Facebook at Chef Derek Upton.