Chicago pastry chef + chemist a combined force in cannabis edibles market

Chicago pastry chef Mindy Segal and chemist Stephanie Goreski work together on a line of edibles for Cresco Labs. Photo:

By Deanese Williams-Harris, Chicago Tribune

Award-winning Chicago pastry chef Mindy Segal can be viewed as a modern-day David, using a slingshot loaded with edibles infused with THC to slay the Goliath that is the pain and discomfort of a list of ailments including cancer and multiple sclerosis … to name a few.

Segal’s first standoff with a Goliath began when her father was stricken with cancer. Segal and her brother sprang into action, finding ways to bolster their father’s appetite and to ease his pain, she said, by finding marijuana-based products.

READ MORE: Cookbook review: The Art of Cooking with Cannabis

Since marijuana became legal in Illinois in January 2020, she has been using her talent to create edibles through working hand-in-hand with a chemist like Stephanie Goreski at Cresco Labs.

“I have no personal agenda, I am selfless,” Segal said, while pointing out the importance of her team’s work to help suffering customers. “I love it when they come up to me and share how our gummies have changed their lives.”

READ MORE: Indulgent Cannabis-Infused Recipes with Chef John Michael MacNeil

Goreski, a Chicago native, joined Cresco Labs in 2019 and rose to the rank of vice president of product development. Her academic background includes a master’s degree in food science and human nutrition from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Northern Illinois University. She and Segal are part of a group that works to sample creations, making sure dosing is accurate and flavours are consistent.

The industry standard for edibles is 10 milligrams of THC per sample, and Segal’s best advice for newcomers is “start low and slow,” before diving in. “Cresco offers micro-doses at 1 to 5 milligrams per edible,” she said.

Both Segal and Goreski noted the importance in changing the public perception of marijuana from the “devil’s cabbage” to a natural alternative to pharmaceuticals.

“We work hard exploring the gamut of what’s available to build trust with our customers,” Goreski said. “We aim to be a strong partner in the medical market. Edibles are a great alternative, you can’t deny it.”

READ MORE: Cooking with cannabis: Necole Hines teaches clients to ‘start low, go slow’

Many negative feelings about marijuana flourished with the older generation when youth began experimenting with different kinds of drugs. But now, marijuana is starting to be rethought as a tax revenue stream along with the calming properties and pain relief it gives when used properly.

Yet the biggest part of Cresco’s success is product taste. Chef Segal has worked a long time with them in mastering the variety of flavours that includes glazed clementine orange, cool Key lime kiwi and lush black cherry. She also is the owner of Mindy’s Bakery in Chicago’s Bucktown neighbourhood and a James Beard Award-winning chef, as well as the culinary muscle behind Cresco Labs.

“This is truly a dream job. I took a risk to do this and I am very proud of it and I stand by it,” Segal said of the products that also carry her name.

Whenever Cresco wants to introduce a new category to its lineup, the team discusses the food and flavours, then taste-tests with and without cannabis. The shelf stability of the products is also determined.

“I would never be able to do this on my own,” Segal shared. “It’s do-or-die, and we take what we do seriously.”

The Cresco team has introduced renditions of chocolates and brittles to its edible market, and is currently working on a THC sweet tart, Goreski disclosed.

Recipes also are included online for all four seasons and holidays, as well as a list of dispensaries that carry Mindy’s creations, which you must be 21 years of age to legally purchase.

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