Healing Through Culinary Cannabis: Chef Derek Upton

Chef Derek Upton, based out of Phoenix, Arizona, creates cannabis food content for brands that want to expand their demographic. Chef Derek is the Chef and Host of Stay Hungry Kitchen. Candid Chronicle connected with Chef Derek to find out why he loves the cannabis industry, his mission for helping people heal through culinary cannabis, and his hopes for the future of cannabis.

How did you get involved in the cannabis industry?

I got involved in the cannabis industry through desperate need to change my life. I was on several medications for depression, anxiety, stomach issues, and insomnia. I began using and researching cannabis and found that there was so much more that could be done. I’ve since gotten off all medications, lost over 115 lbs and honestly found myself again. So if it could help me than I know that millions more need this in their lives. Thus began my pursuit to do just that, heal people.

Why did you start Stay Hungry Kitchen?

I am Chef and Host of Stay Hungry Kitchen. My business partners, Chase Hammond, Justin Barnes and I created a vehicle for us to redefine the cannabis industry through elevated food using cannabis products. I educate on the use of CBD and THC in food, how to properly cook with it in a way that is accessible to everyone. We film it and release episodes via social media.

What sets you apart in the cannabis industry?

What’s sets me apart in my mission is that it’s not about getting high. Yes that’s fun too, but it’s about healing and finding hope. People need to be healed in a way big that pharmaceutical companies can’t help with or won’t. Food is an amazing vehicle for this that resonates with everyone.

Chef Derek Upton. Photo by Delicious Art Media

What life changes occurred when you entered the cannabis industry? 

Honestly, I had a lot of negative labels put on me from friends and family. Many people did not understand what it was I was doing or why. Everyone is stuck in the 70’s mindset. I had to keep my course and stand my ground, I lost friends over it and family. It’s unfortunate but my purpose was bigger than the opinions of the few.

What about the cannabis industry and community do you love? 

I love how accepting the community is and how fast they are to support you. As soon as we went live with our episodes, people from around the world started reaching out. It’s amazing the friends I have gained from this journey.

Do you have any frustrations, hopes, fears as cannabis changes? 

There is so much grey area still that needs to be explored and pioneered. My hope is that we as humans will finally be open to what the cannabis industry could be. What it needs to be and how it could change our future. It frustrates me that so many are still in the propaganda mindset despite the science being proven everyday.

Purple Potato Roman Gnocchi, Turkish fig jam, caramelized mushrooms, summer citrus gastrique, Twisted Infusions Farms basil flowers.

Purple Potato Roman Gnocchi, Turkish fig jam, caramelized mushrooms, summer citrus gastrique, Twisted Infusions Farms basil flowers.

What were some of your challenges getting started in cannabis? 

The challenges I faced were more from people close to me honestly. There were moments of being lost on what direction to go, how to resonate with the masses and of course all the legal hoops. It took time to find our voice.

Where would you like to see yourself in the cannabis industry 3 years from now? 

I would love to be in a position of influence in the cannabis food world. Where cannabis cooking shows that educate are a normal thing. I would love to be a pioneer in that movement for major TV outlets.

What does the future of cannabis look like to you? 

The future looks like a place where the old stereotypes don’t exist and cannabis is as normal as cheese or produce. Where people with major issues are turning to cannabis, not medications, to heal.

How do you plan to make a positive difference in the cannabis industry? 

I will always lead with love in all I do no matter what. I believe having that as my guide will always spread positivity. People see it when they meet me and it’s the most powerful thing in my arsenal. Leading with love creates magic.

Roasted Game Hen, purple potato mash, pumpkin purée, glazed carrots, plum honey glaze.

Roasted Game Hen, purple potato mash, pumpkin purée, glazed carrots, plum honey glaze.

What makes you proud or gratified to be a part of the “legal” cannabis industry? 

I’m proud to call myself a cannabis chef because I get to help people heal. Show them a path they have not taken, which allows me to go on that journey with them. I get to see them from start to finish and it’s amazing. The joy they find when cannabis solves problems they thought were impossible. Having hope again. That’s what I’m proud of.

Do you consume cannabis? If so, how do you prefer to consume? 

Yes I am a daily cannabis user, mostly edibles and flower. A mix of high doses of CBD and normal THC use.

What’s your favorite strain/cannabis product/etc? 

I’m a strong believer in using distillates and isoterps for cooking. As far as consuming personally I love good Indica Sativa Hybrids.