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.

 

Compass Lounge & Restaurant welcomes new chef Brandon Drummond

Chef and new culinary director at the Hyatt Phoenix Brandon Drummond is no stranger to hotel life having worked for Hyatt Hotels around the country for the past 15 years. He come from the Hyatt in Greenwich, Connecticut to run the culinary team at Compass Lounge & Restaurant, Arizona’s only revolving rooftop restaurant.

The downtown hotel is finishing a multi-million dollar facelift and they’ve hired Drummond to re-vamp the menu at their signature restaurant. He brings his experience working in culinary management in the Hyatt family in Washington D.C., Bonita Springs Fla., New Orleans and San Antonio to his new role.

Both the lounge and restaurant will see new dishes including fresh seafood and regional ingredients. In the lounge guest will have the chance to order Buttermilk Fried Quail, a Charcuterie Board and more. The new menu includes Quick Cured Duck and Elk Chops in addition to other new dishes and longtime favorites.

New cocktails include the Strawberry Blonde made with Meyer lemon vodka, house made simple syrup and strawberries. The Bramble Rose mixes Maker’s Mark bourbon with house made rosemary simple syrup and blueberries.

Meet Chef Drummond when he participates in Plated and Staged at the Herberger Theater on Sunday March 29th. The annual fundraiser benefits for the theatre’s youth outreach program. The program exposes youths to culinary programs and the performing arts.

The Compass Lounge & Restaurant the Hyatt Phoenix is at 122 N. 2nd St. Phoenix 85004. Visit their website for more information.

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.

Chef Christopher Gross hosts 2018 Flavors of Phoenix

The Westin Resort & Spa will be the place to be on the evening of Thursday May 24th as 30 of Arizona’s talented chefs will be cooking for the 2018 Flavors of Phoenix. Started 27 years ago by Phoenix chef Christopher Gross this fund-raiser for the American Liver Foundation has grown to become a nationwide event in over 20 cities.chef Christopher Gross

“I had an idea for this concept over 27 years ago thinking we would raise funds for the liver community, and give guests the best food and wine experience possible–unlike any other,” says Chef Gross. “This event is now in over 20 cities helping people. I’m so proud of Flavors of Phoenix. It’s for me, the best event in the state because of the support of the restaurant community–I thank them very much.”

30 Arizona chefs

Chef Gross will be joined by a roster of 29 chefs many who you already know and several up n coming chefs showing off what they can do for the first time. A few of the chefs joining chef Gross and co-chairs Matt Carter of Zinc Bistro, Fat Ox, House Brasserie & The Mission & Westin Kierland’s own Chris Masco will be…..

Tom D’Ambrosio (Aioli Gourmet), Michael DeMaria (M Culinary), Anthony DeMuro (Different Pointe of View), Frank Desplechin (L’Auberge de Sedona), Ron Dimas (Orange Sky), David Duarte (Finestre Modern Gastronomy), Jacob Ellis (Top of the Rock), Skip Hause (Gertrude’s).

Pictured, clockwise from top right: Founding Chef, Christopher Gross (Wrigley Mansion); Chef Co-Chair, Matt Carter (Zinc Bistro, The Mission, The House Brasserie, Fat Ox); Chef Derek Biazo (Deseo); and Chef Co-Chair, Chris Masco (Westin Kierland Resort & Spa). All photos courtesy of Flavors of Phoenix

Dinner and Silent Auction

The festive evening begins at 6:00 p.m. with a cocktail reception and silent auction before the multi-course dinner. The dinner will highlight signature dishes and flavors of the host chefs and is expected to conclude about 10:30.

Tickets for the evening are $500 per person and will go directly to fund research, education & advocacy efforts of the American Liver Foundation.

For more information and to purchase tickets click here.

 

 

Santa Barbara Catering featured on Food Network’s Chopped in February

Arizona chefs and restaurants have been well represented over the years on cable and network television as food challenge and travel shows as have burst into prime time. You can now add Tempe’s Santa Barbara Catering and its executive sous chef Marissa Delgado to the list as they will be featured on the Food Network’s Chopped premiering Tuesday February 13th at 8pm.

Santa Barbara Catering
Executive Sous Chef Delgado in action

Executive Sous Chef Marissa Delgado

Delgado is a  perfect fit for television with her spunky attitude and her kitchen creativity with a reputation for molecular gastronomy and pastry making. With Santa Barbara Catering for 7 years, Delgado has limitless options in the catering kitchen.

“Being able to represent not only Arizona, but also the catering industry on national television was  an experience that I am extremely proud of. My culinary depth as a catering chef helped to prepare me for this fast paced challenge. Also, having executed so many custom menus for our clients, I was able to quickly plan a creative strategy during the competition. ” said Delgado.

Tune in to see how Delgado did with her challenge and its results.

Santa Barbara Catering

It’s should be no surprise that Santa Barbara Catering is making it to a tv screen near you as the company has been a premier caterer around the Phoenix area for over 25 years. With its menu creativity and more they’ve received numerous accolades in the catering industry including being named “International Caterer of the Year” by International Catering Association.

In addition to catering they also operate Palette at the Phoenix Art Museum and is the museum’s daytime caterer.  The Farm at South Mountain is also part of the Santa Barbara Catering family.

For more information visit their website.

 

 

Goodyear chefs compete in the James Beard Blended Burger battle

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.

Toscana’s burger

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.

Lunch & Learn at Marcellino Ristorante

If you’ve ever wanted to learn what makes classic Italian cuisine so good now’s your chance as Chef Marcellino Verzino of his namesake restaurant, Marcellino Ristorante is hosting 2 Lunch & Learns  in coming weeks sharing his secrets and recipes.

Pasta & Pesto

Saturday March 18th is when 16 lucky guests will pull up a seat at the chef’s island and will watch and learn as chef Marcellino creates his homemade pasta and delicious pesto.

Gnocchi & Tomato Sauce

Come back on Saturday April 22nd and learn how he makes his Gnocchi and light tomato sauce as you watch chef gracefully make his way around the exhibition kitchen preparing his delicious potato dumplings.

Only 16 seats are available for each of the classes that will start at 1pm and conclude about 3pm. Attendees will dine on salad,  pasta and dessert after his cooking demonstration. Cost for each of the exclusive Lunch & Learns are $35++.

Reserve your seat by calling the restaurant at 480-990-9500.

Marcellino Ristorante is at 7114 E. Stetson Dr. Scottsdale 85251. http://marcellinoristorante.com/