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Will Mindy Segal's Pot Treats Blaze New Opportunities for Chefs?

It could be another groundbreaking move for Chicago's superstar pastry queen.

Mindy Segal
Mindy Segal
Copyright 2010 John Shaft

Mindy Segal has been at the forefront of many dessert innovations over the years, and now Chicago's sweets queen is becoming the first prominent award-winning chef in the United States to professionally develop and attach her personal brand to retail products with weed.

Segal, seizing a massive opportunity in an untapped market for noteworthy chefs, is launching a line of edible marijuana sweets, in a partnership with Cresco Labs (Illinois' largest cannabis cultivator), that will initially feature three flavors of chocolate brittle bars, granola bites, a chocolate drink that's meant to be warmed, and a do-it-yourself cake and cookie mix, which was first revealed in a press release.

The patients who eat Segal's edible marijuana foodstuffs will be able to taste items that are just as delicious as the award-winning pot-free items she's been cooking for decades, as she says that "people can expect a product that's as good as what's in my restaurant." While many of the items are still in development, and Segal says she's been using marijuana butter and not extraction yet, medical weed patients can look forward to caramelized white chocolate and butterscotch nibs brittle, peanut butter brittle with beer nut toffee and whipped peanut butter, and smoked almond toffee brittle, in addition to the chocolate drink and mix. Other items are coming down the line.

"People can expect a product that's as good as what's in my restaurant."

The products will be available for distribution in late February for sale to patients at all medical marijuana dispensaries in Illinois, and eventually in at least five other states as well. Illinois became the 23rd state in the country to launch medical marijuana dispensaries when the first eight suburban locations opened on Nov. 9.

Segal, who says she's "not a pothead," has been interested in making legal sweet marijuana edibles for a while, saying she's interested in the science, extraction, and baking sides. "When I found out that marijuana would become legal medicinally in Illinois, I was hoping people would approach me," she says. Many people did, and Segal partnered with Cresco for their philosophy and business sense, in addition to their status as the state's largest producer.

But she says she's just as interested in easing the lives of medical marijuana patients with her delicious sweets. "I believe in helping people and creating a good product and making a difference," she says. Segal has been active in a variety of charities over the years, including the Greater Food Depository and Charlie Trotter's Culinary Education Foundation.

Marijuana edibles have been a hot topic around the country and world. Colorado lawmakers ruled in March that edibles are only legal in that state if they look different than regular food, and a CNN show in May explored whether eating food with pot in it is more dangerous than smoking pot. Cooking food with weed has been happening for decades in home kitchens, and edibles have been sold for years at dispensaries in other states where medical marijuana is legal, but Mindy Segal is the first major chef to put her name on such products in America.

Despite the medical side and the ever-relaxing public mindset toward pot, does she feel there is any stigma attached to being the first major chef to get involved in the legal weed edibles industry? "Have I ever been afraid of what people think about me?" she replies.

Many other chefs in Chicago and around the country will surely be watching intently to see how Segal's products turn out, how successful the partnership is and how the move is received by the general public. She's not taking that lightly. "I've never been one to do something half-assed," she says. "I hope that people follow."