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.
Nick Neuman owner of Scottsdale’s EVO has set his sights like many on downtown Phoenix with the August opening of Breadwinner. The sandwich focused hangout will be in The Churchill, the trendy retail & restaurant complex built with shipping containers on the northeast corner of 1st St & Garfield(901 N. 1st St.).
Serving lunch, dinner & weekend brunch Breadwinner will serve handcrafted sandwiches, wraps and salads of the traditional variety with Neuman’s creative twist. Expect the likes of oven roasted turkey, Cuban, Muffeletta or roast beef sandwiches or wraps ($9-$12) along with hearty side dishes, fresh salads and non-alcoholic beverages.
After guests order and pay at the counter their meal will be delivered to them at communal style dining tables in The Churhill’s courtyard.
The sense of community at The Churchill is part of the attraction to Neuman where Breadwinner employees will give 4 hours a month to community service as part of their monthly “social rent”.
Nothing says decadence and delight on a Friday night than chocolate and wine do and if both tickle your fancy the way it does mine then circle Friday January 27th on your calendar and get your tickets for the Chocolate and Wine Experience at The Saguaro Hotel in Scottsdale.
This tasty event is hosted by The Scottsdale League of the Art as it kicks off its 2017 fund-raising season by bringing together chocolate from local chocolate makers, gourmet cuisine and local wines and craft beers. Highlights of the evening include a s’mores station, a chocolate 101 teaching, chocolate martinis and a spiked hot chocolate bar.
Guests attending the Chocolate and wine Experience will taste samples of chocolate from Zak’s Chocolate, Nutwhats, XO confections and more. Food, wine and beer will be provided by EVO, Aioli’s Gourmet Burgers, Yancy Fancy Cheeses, Grand Canyon Brewing Company, Aridus Wine Company and others.
The Walken’s will be performing a wide range of classic cover tunes as guests meander through the night enjoying the festive atmosphere.
The money raised helps the non-profit Scottsdale League of the Arts support and promote the arts and arts education throughout the Phoenix area with several popular fundraisers a year including the Scottsdale Culinary Festival and The Friends of James Beard Benefit Dinner.
Pre-sale tickets are on sale for $60 and early admission for $75 with entry an hour earlier & a champagne welcome. Tickets at the door will be $70. All guest will enjoy un-limited tastes of food, 12 drink sample tickets and access to all activities. The doors open at 7pm for early guests and 8pm for general admission.
It’s 10 days until we can kiss 2016 good bye and welcome the excitement 2017 will bring us. Those that like to ring in the new year in style can find plenty of places around Phoenix to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Below is a list of several restaurants that are offering dinner on the big night.
Pomelo at The Orchard
Chef Javi Perez will be serving dinner from 5pm – 10pm on New Year’s Eve with limited seating for the prie fix menu. The cost is $120 per couple with 2 glasses of Veuve Cliquot champagne included. To make reservations call 602-633-2600.
Starters (one to share)
Calamari & Shrimp Fritti—Crispy calamari and shrimp served with pomodoro and buttermilk dressing.
Chef’s Board—Assortment of cured meats, artisanal cheeses with toasted baguettes.
Wedge—Half head of iceberg lettuce, bleu cheese buttermilk dressing, crispy bacon, hard-boiled egg and tomato confit. (suggested wine pairing) Saint Louis Sancerre | 2014, Loire Valley
Specialties (one per person)
New York Strip *MR—(12 oz.) angus beef grilled over Arizona Mesquite served with shrimp in a parmesan sauce, seasonal vegetables and scalloped potatoes.(suggested wine pairing) Poggio alla Guardia Super Tuscan | 2012, Tuscany, Italy
Short Ribs—Braised to perfection served with a peppercorn demi glaze sauce and served with seasonal vegetables and mashed potatoes (suggested wine pairing) Milbrandt Merlot | 2014, Columbia Valley, Washington
Salted caramel cookie—Warm salted caramel over shortbread cookie served with vanilla gelato, chocolate sauce and fresh strawberries. (suggested wine pairing) Veuve Clicquot Rose | NV, Reims, France
Pomelo at The Orchard is part of The Orchard PHX, a two acre venue located at 7100 N 12th St. in Phoenix. http://www.pomelophx.com
Sorso Wine Room
North Scottsdale’s Sorso Wine Room will offer 2 seating’s for their celebration at 6:30 & 8:30. Chef Paige Murphy will prepare a 5 course prie fixe menu with a wine or beer pairing. The cost is $100 per person and includes tax & gratuity. Additional bottles of wine are 1/2 all night. To make a reservation call 480-951-4344. The menu may include the following….
Zuzu will over 2 seatings at 5:30 for $75 per person and 8:00 for $95 per person for a 3 course dinner. Those who attend either dinner are invited to a complimentary rooftop Champagne toast at midnight. Tax, gratuity and alcohol are additional at dinner.
A few of the options for dinner include a choice of a starterhttps://www.hotelvalleyho.com/hotel/hotel-events/new-years-eve, entrée and dessert from a special menu. Delicious options include Lobster Bisque with crème fraiche and brioche croutons, Herb Roasted Wagyu Beef Striploin with roasted fingerling potatoes, and Huckleberry Crème Brulee.
EVO ends 2016 with a 4 course Italian feast starting 4pm going til 2am for $55 per person. The menu below will be the only menu served on New Year’s Eve and those in the bar can order a la carte. To RSVP call 480-265-9814.
3 seatings will be available on New Year’s Eve at Joe’s Midnight Run in central Phoenix. 5:00 & 7:30 seatings are $65 per person and the 10:00 seating is $75 per person and will include party favors and a champagne toast. Reservations can be made by phone at 480-459-4467 or by email at email@example.com
Opening Course: Choose 1
Pulpo-grilled fingerling potatoes, paprika oil, garlic and lemon