Chef Derek Upton goes from drumming to cooking with cannabis

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.

chef Derek Upton
Lamb dish from “Cooked with Cannbis”

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.

 

The Vegan Taste hires “The Nutrition Doctor” PK Newby

In an effort to make its healthy food healthier, meal delivery service The Vegan Taste has hired nutritionist PK Newby. Owner Jason Wyrick started The Vegan Taste in 2006 to deliver artisan, healthy vegan meals to subscribers doorstep. Newby and Wyrick will work together to make sure meals use the right balance of ingredients for optimal nutrition. Wyrick is also owner the Glendale vegan restaurant, Casa Terra.

Wyrick says, “Creating flavorful, good-for-you meals has always been our focus at The Vegan Taste. However, with the increased emphasis on maintaining excellent health and immune support, we wanted to add another layer of reassurance for our subscribers. Now, with PK’s help, our meals feature the most immunity boosting ingredients possible.”

Newby has over 25 years of experience researching diet related diseases and studies how peoples food choices have an effect on the environment and teaches why what we eat matters. She is also an author with her latest book “Food and Nutrition: What Everyone Needs to Know.” and adjunct professor at Harvard.

Offerings at The Vegan Taste

The menu at The Vegan Taste changes weekly and can be made gluten free, oil free & soy free by request. Sample menus have included Enchiladas Suizas with creamy salsa verde, CT cheese, beans, and market veggies; Thai Peanut Noodles with carrots, cabbage, green onions, and tofu; Barbacoa Tacos with smoked mushrooms, black beans, queso fresco, and pineapple pico; Tikka Masala with carrots, cauliflower, red peppers, and tofu; Turkish Lentil Soup with potatoes, tahini sauce, sumac, and fresh herbs; and Meatball Grinders with zucchini and ground sausage in a fire roasted tomato sauce.

The meal delivery service is offering new customers 20% off meals for 8 weeks with a 6- meal package for $65. 46 and 12 meals for $109.10. Because the meals are being at the cost The Vegan Taste pays for ingredients no profit is being made. Prices include tax and free delivery valley wide. Subscribers can purchase addition meals to be donated to first responders and healthcare workers. For more information or to subscribe visit their website.

Facebook Live cooking classes & pairing tips from LDV Winery

LDV Winery owners Peggy Fiandaca & Kurt Dunham are doing more than making wine and running a winery, they’re hosting Facebook Live cooking classes. Every Thursday at 4 p.m. MST thru May 7th the couple is hosting “From the LDV Winery Kitchen”. Join them on their Facebook page to learn how cook these special meals and learn about which wines pair best with each. There is no cost to participate in the classes.

Guests are encouraged to cook with them while you SIP (shelter in place) on a glass of wine or 2. Wines are for sale on their website with the LDV Winery Kitchen package of 10% off . Wines can be picked up at their wine gallery in downtown Scottsdale or shipped to you for a $5 fee. Recipes will be posted on their Facebook page every week.

The schedule for the Facebook Live cooking classes are as follows.

April 16 — Spicy Shrimp Pasta paired with 2014 Sky Island Syrah

            23 — Flatbreads Three Ways paired with 2013 Sky Island Petite Sirah

            30 — Grilled Ribeye Steak with fire cracker onions with roasted potatoes paired with 2014 The Signature Petite Sirah

May 7 — Pork Tenderloin with two fire roasted peppers sauces and Mexican corn paired 2015 DECADE Red Wine Blend

 

A virtual bao & dumpling food festival is happening

Many daily activities and special events have gone virtual in the last few weeks with the social distancing of the coronavirus. The organizers of the Arizona Bao & Dumpling Festival are in the process of re-scheduling the festival to the Fall and are organizing 2 virtual online parties. The Bao & Dumpling Online Party’s are scheduled on Facebook for Saturday April 25th and May 23rd. The online parties were created to the spirit of the festival alive while showing the diversity of the food.

The FREE parties start at 6 p.m. and invites foodies to share homemade bao & dumpling photos and socialize with foodies. They’ve also put together a resource guide full of recipes, different types of bao and dumplings, pictures and a directory of local restaurants doing bao & dumpling for takeout.

For a chance to win tickets to the re-scheduled festival, join the party by clicking on the Facebook link above and to get the Resource Guide click on this link. Tickets are still on sale for the festival and can be transferred to the new date when it’s been confirmed.

 

Let Chompie’s cook your home bound Passover and Easter feast

Holidays Passover and Easter don’t get cancelled because of the coronavirus, just with no large gatherings of celebration and cheer. In home traditions and meals will still be enjoyed with family and that means cooking a small feast. All 7 Chompie’s locations are preparing meal packages for delivery and pick up for the week long Passover from April 8th – 16th and Easter Sunday on the 12th. Below are several meal packages with pick up & delivery options for both holidays.

The following Passover Meal Box options are available via Door Dash Delivery only (not for takeout or curbside):

Turkey Dinner with Matzo Stuffing including roasted potatoes, home style green beans, a pint of matzo ball soup and three macaroons, $25.99

Brisket Dinner with a potato pancakehome style green beans, a pint of matzo ball soup and three macaroons, $25.99

Pre-packaged items include:

Matzo Box – $7.50

Honey Cake $12

Marble Sponge, $10

Half pound of Vanilla Macaroons, $10

Half pound of Vanilla Meringues, $10

The following Passover Dinner To-Go options are available for curbside pickup:

INDIVIDUAL MEALS (minimum six people for takeout pre-order), $34.95 each —

Choice of one starter:

House made Chopped Liver
Gefilte Fish with Horseradish

Choice of one soup:
Chicken with Matzo Ball
Sweet & Sour Cabbage

Choice of one entree:
Half Roasted Chicken with Matzo Stuffing
Braised Brisket of Beef with Gravy
Roasted Turkey Breast with Matzo Stuffing & Gravy

Choice of one potato:
Large Crisp Potato Latke with applesauce
Roasted Potatoes with caramelized onions

Choice of one vegetable:
Home style Green Beans
Old World Tzimmis

Dessert:
A fine assortment of holiday cake

BASIC DINNER (serves 8), $235 —

Choice of two entrees:
Half Roasted Chicken with Matzo Stuffing
Braised Brisket of Beef with Gravy
Roasted Turkey Breast with Matzo Stuffing & Gravy

Choice of two side dishes:
Potato Latke
Roasted Potatoes
Old World Tzimmis
Home style Green Beans

Choice of two desserts:
Loaf Marble Sponge Cake
Loaf Honey Cake
8 Assorted Macaroons

FULL TRADITIONAL MEAL (serves 8), $279 —

Choice of one appetizer:
House made Chopped Liver
Gefilte Fish with Horseradish

Choice of one soup:
Chicken with Matzo Ball
Sweet & Sour Cabbage

Choice of two entrees:
Half Roasted Chicken with Matzo Stuffing
Braised Brisket of Beef with Gravy
Roasted Turkey Breast with Matzo Stuffing & Gravy

Choice of two side dishes:
Potato Latke
Roasted Potatoes
Old World Tzimmis
Homestyle Green Beans

Choice of two desserts:
Loaf Marble Sponge Cake
Loaf Honey Cake
8 Assorted Macaroons

Easter Sunday home cooking from Chompie’s

The following options are available for takeout and curbside pickup Saturday, April 11 and Sunday, April 12: 

Easter Brunch (serves four) — Scrambled eggs, bacon slices, ham steak slices, home fries, bagels, cream cheese, fruit salad and a muffin loaf, $59.99

The Feast (serves eight) — Scrambled eggs, bacon slices, ham steak slices, home fries, bagels, cream cheese, fruit salad and a muffin loaf, $109.99

Á la carte additions include the Smoked Salmon Package with tomato and red onion for $24.99;
Mimosa Package with one bottle of champagne and one gallon of orange juice for $29.99 and more

For large catering orders, Chompie’s Catering Co. delivers directly for orders of $150 minimum. The preferred method to order is calling 480-348-CATR (2287), but guests may also order online via www.ezcater.com/brand/pvt/chompies-cateringFor details on Chompie’s Catering, visit www.chompies.com/catering/.

For more and to find a Chompie’s near you visit www.chompies.com.

Foodies don’t care about a little rain at Day 1 of Devour Culinary Classic

Many of Saturday’s events around Phoenix were cancelled but don’t mess with foodies and our food festivals but that’s what the weather gods did on day 1 of Devour Culinary Classic. A rainy morning forced Desert Botanical Garden staff, Local First Arizona and purveyors to scramble to but it didn’t deter those in attendance. Umbrella, tents and raincoats were busted out to minimize the rain and puddles.

Here are a few of the many highlights of day 1. Be sure to check back for sunnier day 2 and for more images and commentary check my Instagram @SandyWass  Facebook page & Twitter @SandyWasserman

Bar Magic serving up Hurricane Cocktail in the VIP Lounge with Mardi Gras theme
foodies
Prep & Pastry Churro Cronut & Blueberry Scone
foodies
Scandinavian Sushi coming to Scottsdale later this year from Sandfish Sushi & Whiskey
foodies
AZ Wilderness PB & J Burger
foodies
A leaky tent didn’t dampen the spirits of L’Auberge de Sedona Chef Morgan serving her delicious dessert
foodies
T. Cooks Arcadia Orange Bombe- white chocolate, Grande Marnier mouss, hazelnut & citrus curd
foodies
Dust Cutter Restaurant’s confit pork belly, masa, chorizo & roasted poblano gremolata
foodies
Lincoln Steakhouse Surf & turf- Lobster Escargot & Beef Tongue Popover
Love seeing all the color exhibits and art at the Desert Botanical Garden

KMLE Country Chili, Bourbon & Beer Festival brings the heat

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.KMLE Country Chili, Bourbon & Beer Festival

“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.

 

Top Chef John Tesar coming to 2020 Nirvana Food & Wine Festival

Update: Rescheduled to October. Purchased tickets good then, details to come.

Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa has announced the dates and schedule of events for the fourth annual Nirvana Food & Wine Festival. April 16th -19th Chef and Nirvana host Beau MacMillan welcomes celebrity chef’s Robert Irvine, Scott Contant and Bravo Network’s “Top Chef” winner John Tesar. Celebrities including Rob Riggle and The Bella Twins and other chefs will be hosting and having fun with guests along with chefs and mixologists from around Arizona.

“This event is one that is so near and dear to my heart,” said MacMillan. “Having the opportunity to celebrate outstanding culinary talent, mixology, music and more alongside some of my closest friends and fellow foodies is a true privilege. Nirvana really offers something for everyone and that’s a big part of what makes the festival such a special experience.”

The annual festival celebrates food, wine, music and spirits in a most luxurious resort in the valley and has become a very popular festival in only three years.

Top Chef

Tickets for the five headlining events are available with additional events and after parties still may be added to the weekend’s festivities.

Thursday, April 16- Wood, Wine & Wagyu presented by Far Niente 

The 2020 festival kicks off with this ever-popular event, featuring superstar culinary talent from across North America preparing Snake River Farms American Wagyu cooked over open-wood flames while celebrity mixologists craft whisky-based cocktails utilizing Woodford Reserve. Guests will then be invited to take their places at the table for an intimate, family style dinner with wines hand selected by Far Niente. Country music superstars D. Vincent Williams, Dillon Dixon and Joe Diffy will provide musical accompaniment. Tickets start at $350.

Friday, April 17- Flutes & Coops

Experience the ultimate Champagne campaign and fried chicken feast headlined by DJ Miss Mixx, Fosterson and 17 of the Valley’s best chefs preparing their best fried chicken recipes. This indoor/outdoor event will feature full bars and cocktails shaken by some of the Valley’s best mixologists with one chef being crowned king of Flutes & Coops by popular vote. Tickets start at $150.

Saturday, April 18- Tequila & Tortillas

Grab the salt and limes! Held at the iconic Hotel Valley Ho, this year’s Dia de los Muertos-themed Tequila & Tortillas event will feature nearly 20 locally and nationally recognized chefs cooking up the best of the best in southwestern fare. Since no fiesta is complete without tequila, several of the Valley’s top cocktailers will be on-site mixing up delicious tequila-based cocktails.

This year’s event also features a team “taco takedown” competition, tequila luges and a stunning art presentation by the renowned Gennaro Garcia. Tickets start at $125.

Saturday, April 18- Best of the West

The biggest event of the weekend, Best of the West will be hosted by Scott Conant and Tony Abou-Ganim and will offer 20 live-action stations showcasing cuisine from the most talented chefs of the Valley and greater Arizona. Set to the backdrop of the stunning Camelback Mountain, this not-to-miss event will also offer live musical performances from Double D and the Nashville Allstars to close out the night. Tickets start at $175

Sunday, April 19- Rosé Parté  

The star-studded rosé-all-day trend continues with Rosé Parté, co-hosted by Robert Irvine and the Bella Twins. Guests will have the opportunity to mix and mingle with some of the Valley’s top culinary talent as well as taste two-dozen different rosé wines. This brunch-style party will also include craft cocktails, ice carvings, a raw bar and beats by DJ Miss Mixx. Giving new meaning to the term “Sunday Funday,” this is a not-to-miss closing experience. Tickets start at $150.

The Arizona Native Edible Experience is coming to Scottsdale

Arizona’s Native American tribes will be showcasing foods and culture at the Arizona Native Edible Experience. The cocktail style tasting on Saturday February 8th will be at Scottsdale’s Museum of the West from 6-8 p.m. The annual event is hosted by the Arizona American Indian Tourism Association (AAITA)and will feature native art and a silent auction in addition to food tastings.

“This event gives us an opportunity to showcase the dynamic Native communities and multitude of tribes thriving here in Scottsdale today and also allows us to educate the residents and visitors of Scottsdale about these tribes and their important role in the City’s rich heritage,” said Geri Hongeva, President of the AAITA. “We are proud to represent such a vibrant group of peoples and share their stories that have shaped the past.

Arizona Native edible experience
Photos by Haile Sutton
Native chef tasting stations will offer traditional foods as well as modern tastes and cocktails. Featured chefs and guests include San Carlos Apache forager & Ancestral Food Archivist Twila Cassadore, Brian Yazzie aka “Yazzie the Chef”, Renetto – Mario Etsitty and Andrew Humeyumptewa.
The Experience is part of Scottsdale’s Western Week and the Arizona American Indian Festival 2020 being held over the weekend. Tickets for the Arizona Native Edible Experience are $25 and can be purchased at http://www.arizonanativeexperience.com. The Museum of the West is at 3830 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale 85251.

The Camelback Market at Vincent’s has returned for another season

The Camelback Market
The beet goes on.

Those farmer’s markets that took the summer off have re-opened for our cooler months. One of the more popular markets that is back is The Camelback Market at Vincent’s on Camelback. The opened air market with European flare runs through early May from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. every Saturday.

Customers can wander by local produce vendors along with imported exotic fruits and vegetables, warm & crusty breads, buttery croissants, fresh pasta, homemade jams, imported cheeses and more.

Enjoy made to order omelets, crepes, wood fired pizzas, meat & seafood paella and other delicacies from Vincent. Relax with a glass of wine and watch the crowds go by. It’s also a great opportunity to pick up gifts for the holidays imported from the south of France.

The Camelback Market is held in the parking lot of Vincent’s at 3030 E. Camelback Rd. Phoenix 85018. For more information visit their website.