Chef Mindy Segal at work in HotChocolate in 2015. Segal has now branched out into creating cannabis edibles for medical marijuana patients. (Phil Velasquez / Chicago Tribune)Grace WongContact ReporterChicago TribuneMindy Segal, a James Beard Award-winning pastry chef, announced in December 2015 that she would be venturing into cannabis-infused edible products for medical marijuana patients.
The acclaimed chef and owner of Mindy’s HotChocolate recently spoke at Taste Talks about her line, Mindy’s Artisanal Edibles, created in partnership with Cresco Labs and available at licensed dispensaries across the state.We caught up with Segal to talk about the cannabis industry, chocolate and what it means to be a compassionate person.Illinois law prevents anyone with a cultivation center agent card from going into dispensaries and talking to patients. You talked about giving up your cultivation center agent card up, which allowed you to produce and oversee your own product.
Why did you do that?I gave up my agent card because I felt that it was more important for me to go to dispensaries and talk to patients. It’s just like being in the dining room for service and meeting my customers and connecting.Why was it important for you to connect with your customers?In Illinois, we’re a medical state, so it’s really important to see what patients need, what they want and how the product is affecting them. I thought that it was much more important for me to be the face of the company and the brand and to connect with people — to go to the dispensaries to talk to the people and hear what they have to say and to let them hear what my philosophy is.What kind of cannabis-infused products do you have?I make chocolates, brittles, caramels, sucking candy and gummies. There are cookies that are not yet ready to be released.
We make individual chocolates that are 50 mg and 25 mg pieces.What is your philosophy as a chef and entrepreneur?I wanted to bring the things that I make in my kitchen everyday to the shelves of the marijuana industry. I tried to intellectually and spiritually think about why it would be important for me to get into the industry and the best conclusion that I could come up with is that it’s just really kind of like an extension of what I do every day as a chef — I make people happy. I provide a service for people. I create food for people.How do you feel about being in the cannabis industry?I felt like I’m justified in doing this because I’m doing the same thing (I did as a chef) and not only am I doing it, but I’m helping people at the same time. People feel relief. I find that when I (have) talked to patients, I’ve done good with that part, which is why I go speak in dispensaries.I think it’s really important to connect. It’s all intertwined.
I feel okay about (doing this work). I spoke to my parents about it, I spoke to my husband, they gave me the green light and said, “go for it.” As long as I got my inner circle’s approval, I felt like, let’s shake it up a bit and do it.What’s your approach in creating these products?There’s the technical side, the lab side, and then there’s the creative side, or the chef’s side. The whole idea was to create a brand that was chef-focused before it was anything else, then being consistent every time in terms of dosing. The way that we do that is work(ing) closely with chefs and labs. We wanted to create a product that tasted just like my product (at HotChocolate), so we’ve taken the terpene profile (the aromatic oils flavoring cannabis) out and it’s just as straight as THC as the law will allow us within the realm of plus or minus. I feel that we’ve done that.
My product is pretty consistent but for me, it comes down to what the product is first, and then dosing it. We create the product and then we learn how to dose it within the realm of the recipe, not vice versa.How has this changed you as a chef?Even though I was extremely compassionate before I even started in this industry, I am so much more compassionate. I’m for (patients) and for the advocacy of legalizing this product. I just totally believe that there’s nothing wrong with cannabis and it should be used medicinally for sure, and it should also be used recreationally. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t.I feel like (getting into the cannabis industry) made me grow as a human being, to understand people’s needs.
I’ve dedicated my life to providing people with something, whatever it may be — a cookie, a bagel, a chocolate with 50 mg of THC in it. I feel like it’s what I do. It’s who I am and I’m damn proud.What’s next?Right now, the edibles are available in Illinois and in dispensaries. But we are working diligently to be in California by the beginning of next year and then Nevada, Washington state, Pennsylvania, everywhere. I’m looking forward to expanding my brand and creating a much more creative line in the recreational space. I’m looking forward to that. I’m looking forward to expanding my brand to other states.
READ THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE BELOW