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MARY Magazine and Forward Experiential present MARY Talks: Cannabis & Culinary Arts – featuring a diverse group of chefs from Seattle. We’ll explore the intersection of cannabis in culinary arts and trends. Our expert chefs will share insights, knowledge and how-to’s from their journey on bringing infused cuisine to the forefront of modern-day culture.
Jessica Catalano is a professional cannabis Chef, cannabis edibles expert, recipe developer, food writer, the pioneer of strain specific cannabis cuisine, founder of TGKR, and author of The Ganja Kitchen Revolution: The Bible of Cannabis Cuisine published by Green Candy Press. She is a medical cannabis and cannabis lifestyle advocate who has combined her two loves of food and cannabis into stylish medicated dishes for Medical Cannabis patients. She was born and raised in Buffalo, NY and then headed west to Colorado at 23. Catalano holds three culinary degrees: Pastry Arts, Culinary Arts, and Food Service Management that she earned while living in Colorado. Between her education, experience in the bakery and restaurant industry, impressive cannabis industry working experience, and her knowledge of cannabis, she has been called the “OG Cannabis Chef” by many.
In 2009, she began experimenting with Strain Specific Cooking and Baking and launched a blog in June 2010 to share her recipes with medical marijuana patients. The Ganja Kitchen Revolution blog was born and quickly became such a success that in September 2010 she was approached by Green Candy Press. TGKR went into production and three years later it hit the market as the first Strain Specific Gourmet Cannabis Cookbook.
Chef Allan has spent 25 years as a professional chef. While working for such large companies like Princess Cruise lines, Hilton, Wyndham to name a few his skills grew in range and experience. He now brings this experience into the legal cannabis markets. Pot Bites in Seattle was Allan’s first cannabis company which serviced the greater Seattle area in the Medical field. Now with recreational cannabis Allan works with others to help understand regulations with the USDA and other associated with rule making in the industry. These days Chef Allan is the Director of Infused Products for the Willie Nelson brand of legal cannabis, Willie’s Reserve, as well he provides consulting for companies starting in the edible field.
Derek Simcik spent his formative years experiencing foods from around the world having lived in Greece, Tunisia, Germany, France, Hong Kong, Japan and Austria all before the age of 20. Born in Athens, Greece to American parents, Derek has a great respect for local culture and their unique cuisine.
Today, Derek takes advantage of the bounty of the Pacific Northwest at Scout PNW, one of “Seattle’s 10 best new restaurants of 2016,” located in the Thompson Seattle Hotel. In his role, Chef Derek also oversees The Nest rooftop, hotel banquets, and all hotel events. He also leads culinary efforts regionally for Two Roads Hospitality.
Prior to joining Two Roads Hospitality, Derek spent 8.5 years at Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants opening two Washington, D.C. hotspots, Morrison House and Jackson 20, before taking the helm at Chicago’s Atwood in 2009. As Executive Chef of Atwood, Derek won wide acclaim in his four-plus years of service. In 2014, Derek opened Santa Barbara’s bohemian oasis, Outpost at The Goodland, in a dual role as the Executive Chef and General Manager.
Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Unika grew up surrounded by Chef’s, home-cooks and restaurateurs. “As a child, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my first answer was always ‘A Chef!’ but I went off in a completely different direction.” Although Unika would go on to receive BA degrees in both Broadcast Production and Theatre Arts and Drama from Washington State University, her passion for the culinary arts only grew stronger with time. In 2006 she took the first step towards pursuing her passion for providing healthy, home-cooked, soul warming meals by establishing “Soul-Full Foods” catering and meal delivery service. “The feedback that I received was phenomenal and so encouraging. I decided my childhood dream of being a chef deserved to be fully explored. So, I quit my day job!”
In 2013, Unika graduated from Le Cordon Bleu and Soul-Full Foods has grown and evolved into “LUVN Kitchn”; a private dinner and catering service that also provides caregiver services to medical marijuana patients, as well as marijuana themed private dinners. Unika believes that if we make a point of reaching for and consuming what the earth provides, before we reach for and consume things created in a laboratory, we would all live much happier, healthier lives. “The happier and healthier we are in our day to day lives, the more free we are to love ourselves, our families, our lives…LOVE. That’s what it’s all about.”