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.

 

EVO’s owner opening Breadwinner in downtown Phoenix

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”.

 

Sweet treats & wine at the Chocolate and Wine Experience on Jan. 27th.

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.

The Saguaro Scottsdale, 4000 N Drinkwater Blvd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251 and tickets can be purchased at http://www.scottsdalefest.org/

Ring in 2017 with dinner on New Year’s Eve around Phoenix

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.

The EVO salad photo courtesy of EVO

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.

 Salad (one to share)

Pomelo Chopped—Dinosaur kale, artisan greens, tomato, corn, edamame, roasted peppers, gold raisins, toasted sunflower seed, feta and tossed in Green Goddess dressing. (suggested wine pairing) Lagaria Pinot Grigio | 2014, Veneto, Italy

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

Pan-Roasted Wild Salmon *M—Black rice, shaved fennel and wild arugula salad with citrus Pomelo beurre blanc. (suggested wine pairing) Damilano Nebbiolo | 2013, Piedmont, Italy

DESSERT (one to share)

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….

Charcuterie Plate

Corn and Shishito Fritter with Honey Drizzle

Soup Taster

Braised Mustard Greens with Lentils and Crostini

Roasted Pork with Parmesan Risotto

Coffee Glazed Donuts with Vanilla Whipped Cream

Sorso Wine Room 15323 N Scottsdale Rd #150 http://www.sorsowineroom.com

Zuzu at Hotel Valley Ho

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.

Photo courtesy of Hotel Valley Ho

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.

To see the full menu and to make a reservation visit https://www.hotelvalleyho.com/hotel/hotel-events/new-years-eve

Tavern Americana

New Year’s Eve at Tavern Americana will be served from 5pm- 10 pm with a course dinner for $55 per person ++ with limited seating available. To reserve your seat call 480-502-6740.

1st Course 

Caesar Salad | Parmigiano Reggiano | Lemon | Brioche | Black Pepper

Avocado & Grapefruit Salad | Radish | Champagne Vinaigrette | Arugula | Candied Almonds | Cranberries

2nd Course

Herb Crusted Hanger Steak | Roasted Root Vegetables | Swiss Chard | Green Onion | Port

Roasted Half Chicken | Charred Broccoli | Parsnips | Spinach | Lemon | Burnt Thyme

3rd Course

Chocolate Lava Cake | Champagne Berries |

Grand Marnier Crème Brulee | Caramelized Pineapple

Tavern Americana 20469 N Hayden Rd. Scottsdale http://urbantaverngroup.com/tavernamericana/

EVO

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.

STARTERSChoice of One

ARANCINI- CRISPY RISOTTO / PEAS/ MOZZARELLA / POMODORO/ PARMESAN

TUSCAN BEAN STEW- WHITE BEANS / SHERRY / OVEN DRIED TOMATOES / KALE

*POACHED SHRIMP- EGGPLANT RAGU/ THYME OIL

OXTAIL TORTELINI- LEMO/ GOAT CHEESE/ BRAISED REDUCTION

POLPETTINE- HAND ROLLED MEATBALLS/ POMODORO/ GRANAN PADANO/ BALSAMIC/ BASIL

INSALATEChoice of One

EVO SALAD- CRISPY BRUSSELS SPROUTS / DRIED KALE / CHÈVRE/ PEAR/ PANCETTA/ PINENUTS/ BALSAMIC

CAPRESE- TOMOATO/ BASIL PESTO/ PISTACHIO / ARUGULLA / REDUCED BALSAMIC/ CIABATTA

CAESAR- ESCAROLE/ GARLIC DRESSING/ PARMESAN / CROUTONS

WARM KALE- BELUGA LENTILS/ CANDIED PECANS/ PARMESAN / PANCETTA/ VINAIGRETTE/ RED PEPPERS/ GOLDEN RAISINS

ENTRÉEChoice of One

SKILLET LASAGNA- MOZZARELLA/ STRATCCIATELLA / BOLOGNESE/ PARMESAN / BALSAMIC / HERBS

*LOBSTER RISOTTO- POACHED LOBSTER TAIL/ CORN/ ASPARAGUS / WHITE WINE/ PARMESAN

ORECCHETTE- KALE/ FENNEL SAUSAGE/ CALABRIAN CHILI / PARMESAN

PIZZA- ROASTED GARLIC / ROMA TOMATOES / PROSCUITTO / MOZZARELLA/ BASIL/ SABA

GRILLED FILET- TRUFFLE WHIPPED POTATOES/ ROASTED ZUCCHINI/RED PEPPER PESTO

*SQUID INK- TAGLIATELLE/ SHRIMP/ MUSSELS / CALAMARI/ SCALLIONS / SAFFRON BUTTER/ CALABRIAN CHILI

PORCHETTA- PORK TENDERLOIN/ HOUSE PANCETTA / CRISPY FINGERLINGS / HOUSE PANCETTA/ SHALLOT DEMI-GLACE

*SEA BASS- BASIL GASSE/ ROASTED TOMATOES / POACHED SHRIMP/ GARLIC CREMA

DOLCI- Choice of One

NUTELLA CANOLI- MASCARPONE / CARMELIZED PECANS / HOUSE FRUIT PUREE

BROWN BUTTER BABY CAKE- BAKED TO ORDER 20 minutes / VANILLA CRÈME ANGLAISE / CHANTILLY / RASPBERRIES

CITRUS OLIVE OIL CAKE- OATMEAL CRUMBLE/ VANILLA GELATO / CANDIED LIME ZEST

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CAKE- MIXED BERRY CULIS / HOUSEMADE MARSHMALLOW/ RASPBERRY GELATO

CHEESE PLATE- GORGONZOLA/ POACHED PEAR/ BRIE/ DATE JAM/ DRUNKEN GOAT/ BLUE SKY HONEY

EVO  4175 N. Goldwater Blvd. Scottsdale, AZ 85251. 480-265-9814 www.evoscottsdale.com

Joe’s Midnight Run

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 info@joesmidnightrun.com

Opening Course: Choose 1

 Pulpo-grilled fingerling potatoes, paprika oil, garlic and lemon

 Tuna crudo-grapefruit-apple-fennel-chile/sundried tomato oil

 Grilled Romaine Salad-romaine, red bell peppers, lemon buttermilk dressing

 Main Course: Choose 1

 Salmon-truffle celery root-shrimp-cauliflower-crab/lemon buerre blanc

 Duck Mole-squash, corn, braised duck, spiced chocolate mole

 Filet-grilled beef tenderloin, cognac, creamy porcini mushroom and leek ragu, grilled asparagus and potatoes

 Dessert Course:  Choose 1

 Poached Pear-pisco-vanilla-almond/raisin crumble

 Chocolate cheesecake-graham cracker dusting-chocolate