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.
As culinary events and food festivals get postponed or cancelled due to the coronavirus a new festival is moving forward as planned. The first ever Rib Fest Showdown debuts April 25th & 26th 2020 in Surprise at Mark Coronado Park. The Throwdown pits Kansas City vs. Texas pitmasters to see who makes the best smokes meats. With the aroma of burning wood in the air festival goers will taste ribs and other smoked meats.
The city of Surprise was chosen as co-host of the event as it’s the Spring Training home of both Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals & Texas Rangers.
“We are thrilled to partner with the City of Surprise to launch this exciting event,” said Landon Evans owner of HDE Agency. “Supporting the economic growth and working together to build a cornerstone event for the city that will come to be recognized as an annual program is both rewarding and awesome.”
LDE Agency is also producing the KNIX BBQ & Beer Festival on March 28th in Chandler and is taking every per-caution to make sure both festivals are safe, clean and happen as planned.
The family friendly festival also features a ‘Battle of the Bands” with local and national performers, a kid’s zone, food eating contests and more.
The Rib Fest Showdown goes from 12 – 10 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are on sale with 2 for $16, 4 for $30 or 6 for $40. Walk -up tickets the day of will be $10 each. VIP tickets and a Stay & Play overnight packages are available. A portion of the proceeds from the Rib Fest Throwdown will be donated to Mighty Change of Heart, a local non-profit that provides support for foster children.
Billed as where “Top Chefs Vie for Food-Pairing Glory”, Epicuriad 2020 will have more than 15 local chefs competing to win the coveted Epicurean chefs jacket while raising money for the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation. Harley Davidson of Scottsdale will host the 8th annual event on Saturday May 2nd at 6 p.m.
Each chef will be tasked with creating a dish that will pair well with a specific beer and wine. Attendees will vote for ” Best Plate” and “Best Pairing” crowning a winner. Money raised will benefit research and programs for brain tumor and patients put on by the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation.
Tickets for Epicuriad 2020 are limited and can be purchased at their website. General Admission tickets are $85 and VIP is $100. Harley Davidson of Scottsdale is at 15656 N. Hayden Rd. Scottsdale 85260.
Scottsdale Fashion Square will be showing off all things edible, fashionable and floral over their 4-day Fashion A’ Fare weekend. Thursday March 5 – Sunday the 8th will see events throughout the mall with several in the new luxury wing. Foodies will want to attend on Saturday and Sunday for chef demos, a cooking competition, Sunday brunch and a farmer’s market.
On Saturday, well renowned chefs from the mall’s new restaurants Toco Madera, Nobu, Ocean 44 and others will demonstrate edible art in the new luxury wing. Guests can watch students from the Arizona Culinary Institute compete in a Food Network styled cooking competition and awards ceremony.
Sunday brings a pop-up farmer’s market to the new Grand North Entrance. Whether you’re looking for a yoga demonstration, to shop or Sunday brunch this will be the place to be. Brunch will feature dishes with de-constructed produce along with prie-fixe brunch and lunch menus at the new restaurants. Champagne bars, DJ spin- art and flower crown making are put of the celebration.
Scottsdale Fashion Square is at 7014 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85251. The luxury wing is on the north side off Goldwater Blvd. For more information and to stay up to date about Fashion A’ Fare head to their website.
A bowl of spicy chili, a shot of bourbon and a cold beer to wash it down sounds pretty good. Enjoy all three at the 3rd annual KMLE Country Chili, Bourbon & Beer Festival when it returns to downtown Chandler on Saturday February 29th. The festival at Dr. A.J. Chandler Park invites home cooks to the chili cook-off to see how they stack up against local restaurants.
A dozen top shelf bourbons, cocktails and craft beer will be featured along with a day’s worth of live music. Southbound, Western Fusion Band & Jim Bachman and the Day Drinkers are a few bands filling their air with country music. Life size lawn games and cornbread, chili dog and Frito pie eating contests will keep the day fun and festive.
“The event is a great combination of favor and flair,” said Landon Evans creative director of HDE Agency, the event’s producer. “From mild to unbearably hot chili offerings and over a dozen of top shelf bourbons you’re likely not to try – we welcome all to indulge, experience and engage with the variety of bourbons, beers and bands.”
A portion of the proceeds from the KMLE Country Chili, Bourbon & Beer Festival will be donated to the Greater Cause Foundation. The non-profit gives back to communities greater causes including a children’s welfare, anti-bullying, hunger, animal abuse and more.
Tickets for the festival that starts at 12 noon are available at the festival’s website. Dr A.J. Chandler Park is at 178 E. Commonwealth Ave. Chandler.
If your calendar is filling up like mine is you’ll want to save the date of Sunday November 17th. That afternoon is when food trucks will battle to see who makes the best slider at the popular Slider Throwdown at Kierland Commons. The annual family friendly event raises money for the Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation (AFFCF).
“Our mission is to help foster children navigate the difficult and often unchartered waters of foster care by providing them with valuable resources as well as opportunities to participate in childhood activities that promote confidence and independence so they can grow into responsible, happy adults,” says Kris Jacober, executive director of the AFFCF. “With popular events like the Slider Throwdown we are thrilled and grateful to see the public aid in our mission to build up our community’s youth.”
Local food trucks Two Fat Guys Grilled Cheese, Food Diva and others will compete for “Best Slider”. Judge’s will look for creativity in the sliders and taste and attendees will vote for the “People’s Choice” award.
All proceeds will benefit AFFCF to help foster children have a “normal” childhood and prepare them for adulthood. Since 1983 AFFCF has raised over $10 million for foster care here in Arizona.
The Throwdown goes from 12 noon – 3p.m. and admission to the event is $35 per person. Included are samples of all sliders and 3 non-alcoholic drink tickets. There will be a silent auction to bid on with exciting packages and music by Lane Change. Tickets are available at https://www.affcf.org/sliderthrowdown/
The culinary stars shine bright on southern California when the 9th Annual Los Angeles Food & Wine festival launches for four days in August. Celebrity chefs and local food icons show off the coastal cuisine of southern California cooking. Jerimiah Tower and Nancy Silverton are two of the chefs cooking for guests at diners, cooking demonstrations and more.
The four days start with a series of dinners Thursday evening at restaurants around the city before shifting to the Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica airport for the weekend.
Los Angeles Food & Wine festival events
14 culinary events will span the weekend including…..
The Legends Dinner at Chi SPACCA: The widely credited father of California cuisine Jeremiah Tower joins queen of the Mozza-Plex Nancy Silverton at her white-hot Chi SPACCA. This epic, one-night-only pairing promises a lifetime of bragging rights to the 40 festival-goers fortunate enough to snag a ticket.
Dinner at Otium:Fans of Netflix’s “The Final Table” can pull up a chair to watch 2018 season winner Tim Hollingsworth share the spotlight with rising star chef Travis Swikard at Hollingsworth’s downtown masterpiece, The Broad museum-adjacent Otium.
The Epic Burger Throwdown with Alvin Cailan: In a city known for great burgers, the best are going bun to bun to win the coveted LAFW Golden Burger Show Trophy. Host Alvin Cailan, of YouTube’s “The Burger Show,” joins celebrity judges Seth Rogen, Tiffani Thiessen and Adam Richman in this juicy battle of the beef.
LA’s Faves & Craves: In one short stroll, festival-goers can take in the breathtaking diversity of L.A.’s culinary landscape as the city’s own Jet Tila hosts a showcase of the most crave-worthy dishes of 25 local chefs. L.A’s finest tacos, pizza, hot dogs, donuts, fried chicken and Asian-inspired specialties will share one location for one afternoon.
Meat Me at LAFW’s Great Steak-out & BBQ: Meat master Curtis Stone of Gwen Butcher Shop & Restaurant and 25 other great tamers of the flame are bringing their A+ game to LAFW. Surf, sides, caviar and Big Cabs will complement the slabs at this event evoking the nation’s greatest steakhouses and BBQ joints.
Sunday Brunch So Hard: Those lucky enough to score one of the very limited VIP tickets to LAFW’s grand finale enjoy rare pre-event access to Jeremiah Tower, the illustrious self-taught chef dubbed “The Last Magnificent” by Anthony Bourdain. Standard tickets are anything but shabby, too, at the culinary legend’s brunch-to-end-all-brunches.
To see a full list of events, more information and to purchase tickets visit their website.
Ever want to have one of your homemade culinary creations on the menu at your favorite restaurant? Now’s your chance as you have until May 1st to submit your best milkshake recipe to Hotel Valley Ho’s “Battle Freak Shake” contest.
Once submitted online the Zuzu culinary team will review recipes & ingredients before picking the finalists on June 1st. The finalist will make their milk shake for them and the top shakes will go to “Battle Freak Shake”. The winner will….Have their shake featured as the Showstopper Shake in August, 3 night stay at hotel w/ upgraded guest room, Dinner for 2 at Zuzu and 2 90-minute VH Spa treatments. And of course bragging rights.
3 shakes will be featured at each of the hotel’s Chef + Farmer’s Market events. Guests and chef judges will vote for a winner who goes to the final market event of the summer to be crowned the winning shake.
Trapp Haus BBQ owner Phil Johnson celebrates his 6th month anniversary with a party tonight and is offering new specials. Johnson who is also the pitmaster throws a party tonight as the popular First Friday Artwalk happens. Guests celebrate with an all-you-can-eat whole hog roast for $10/adults & $5 for kids. The party with live music starts at 5 p.m. and goes until 10 or when there is no more hog to eat.
Johnson will be taking his recipes on the road later this month when he heads to Kansas City to compete in the American Royal World Series of Barbecue. From there he heads to Milwaukee show what he knows about BBQ with a cooking demonstration and class at the Journal Sentinel Wine & Food Experience.
New specials and offerings are now available until further notice.
Slab Saturday’s– Every Saturday $25 St. Louis Ribs all day long.
Free local Delivery– On-line orders in the downtown Phoenix area from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Tuesday Friday.
Weekday Sammitch Specials-$2.00 off any Sammaitch Tuesday – Friday from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Beats, Beer & Q- On Fridays
Trapp Haus BBQ is at 511 E. Roosevelt Phoenix 85004. 602-466-5462. For more information check their website.
Despite National Hamburger month ending in May, two west valley chefs are just getting started as they compete in the James Beard Blended Burger battle. Goodyear restaurants Eagle’s Nest and Toscana’s Restaurant are rolling up their sleeves representing two of the three Arizona restaurants in the competition. They will be trying to create the winning burger using 2 types of mushrooms as ingredients.
Hail Mary burger
Chef Mary Ahern of Eagle’s Nest see’s her Hail Mary burger as the eventual winner. This 17 ingredient burger blends Portobello and button mushrooms, roasted garlic, thyme and shallots ground with the brisket and jalapeños, garlic and bacon mixed with ground beef.
The burger is then topped with bacon jam, lettuce, house made pickles, red onion, devil dog sauce and slices of American and Havarti cheese all between a Brioche bun. That sounds like more than a mouthful and like a winner to me.
Eagle’s Nest’s neighbor in the Pebble Creek community Toscana’s Restaurant is building a blended burger of their own.
It will be pan seared with 80/20 ground beef, house smoked mesquite button mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, caramelized onions, shaved lettuce, fresh watercress, apple-wood bacon, aged smoked cheddar cheese, house-made cowboy candy and mayo.
All served between a King’s Hawaiian bun, hope it can handle everything
Another delicious sounding burger and I’m very curious about the cowboy candy.
James Beard Blended Burger battle voting
Online voting ends July 31st with the top 5 winners from around the country competing in the final showdown of the James Beard Blended Burger challenge in New York city in January. To cast your vote you may vote here.