Celebrity chef Jordan Savell will be joining Phoenix chef Derek Upton at his cannabis dinner series, “Elevated Under the Stars,” on August 21. Savell is the third contestant from the reality TV series Hell’s Kitchen to join Upton for the fine-dining events, which combine multi-course meals with education about micro-dosing.
Self-taught Savell owns Bullfish Foods in Fort Worth, Texas, and was a contestant on season 19 of Hell’s Kitchen this year, placing 7th out of 18 chefs. She credits her nearly three years of sobriety from alcohol and cocaine to her use of cannabis.
“Being an addict, there’s always got to be something there. We don’t ever stop being addicts; we just continue to be addicted to other things that are deemed ‘OK’ by society, whether it be nicotine, Red Bull, sex, food, whatever,” Savell says. “During my sobriety, I chose to continue using cannabis to curb my desire to want to go back to doing other things.”
Savell says she’s looking forward to learning more about cooking with cannabis from Upton, who starred in the Netflix show Cooked with Cannabis and Chopped 420 on the Food Network.
“With (cannabis) becoming an ingredient for food now, I feel like both of my worlds are colliding, which is super cool, because I don’t do anything but work,” Savell says. “With chef Upton, I’m hoping to learn how to use the different strains and how to use the flavor of those different strains in the food without it tasting like it’s got weed in it. I want to learn the fine art of it. I can make brownies and I can make cookies and do all the usual edibles, but using it in a fine dining situation is a lot more challenging, and to be able to mix that in and have it not taste like you’re sitting in front of a big plate of weed.”
That’s important to Upton, as well, who wants to elevate cooking with cannabis to a culinary art. “I pair my dishes kind of like wine,” he says. “Each cannabis strain is specific to the overall palate of that dish. I try to blend the flavor in to create earthiness, sweetness – the whole palate of flavors that you need to have for each dish. So, it does affect (the flavor), but in a positive way.”
Bringing celebrity chefs like Savell to his “Elevated Under the Stars” dinners is part of Upton’s plan to paint Phoenix as a culinary cannabis capital. “I’m trying to put Phoenix on the map for what I’m doing, so I really want to showcase them (celebrity chefs) in Phoenix. I have them send me three dishes that they really love and want to do, and then I build my dishes around their ideas.”
The cannabis-infused, six-course dinner Upton and Savell will be serving consists of roasted vegetable salad, scallop crudo, braised short rib, crispy skin snapper, matcha pound cake, and a sweet steam bun. There will also be mocktails. Guests receive infusions separately from the food so they can control the dosing in their dishes.
Savell looks forward to the friendly legal climate for cannabis in Arizona. It’s nothing like the atmosphere in her home state, she says. “Coming out of recovery, there are a lot of folks that think (cannabis) is just another drug, especially here in Texas, where it is not legal,” she says. “People still go to jail for it, people still get antagonized over it for no reason here.”
Her experience as a chef and as a recovering addict made Savell a great guest choice, Upton says. “She has a crazy passion for food, and she has a crazy passion for wellness and being better. I think that her story with alcohol addiction lends itself to that wellness,” he says. “This is a great opportunity to educate someone on a platform that has a lot of reach and a lot of influence on the community, because the biggest part of what I’m trying to do is create a safe community around the cannabis food idea.”
Acceptance of the idea of cannabis-infused food isn’t likely in Texas anytime soon, Savell says, but she wants to be ready for the day it’s decriminalized in the Lone Star State. “We have a very limited medical program. There are only one or two dispensaries in the state. You can have a medical prescription for (marijuana), but you have to have a terminal illness or something really severe to even get that card,” she says. “It’s not like most places where it is medicinally legal, and you can roll in and say you have anxiety and get a card and you’re cool. Not here. You have to have a terminal illness, and several doctors confirm that illness, so it’s still a little far off for us.”
“But with doing things like this – and I hope this is not the last one I do with Derek – by the time it’s legal in Texas, I will be the first chef to be able to pop up and be like, ‘Blam! Here you go’ in my own city, in Fort Worth,” Savell says. “I’m looking down the road, ahead of the game.”
The “Elevated Under the Stars” dinner with chefs Derek Upton and Jordan Savell starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, August 21. Tickets cost $175 and are available at www.eventhi.io/event/elevated-under-the-stars-an-educatio-5032. The dinner location will be disclosed upon ticket purchase.