Category Archives: Staff Stories

MVP: James Anderson


Young James (who is not so young anymore) started with Upward Projects 4 years ago and has become a staple behind the bar.

James started at Windsor, helped open Federal Pizza and Joyride Eastside, and is now full-time behind the bar at Joyride Central. Amongst his success with our company, most recently, he not only received MVP of the Quarter, but was also awarded “Best Beverage Knowledge for 2014” at Joyride Central. Try saying all of that in one breath…

Here are a few interesting facts about him that you may not know!

1. What song always makes you happy when you hear it?

Tame Impaula – Mind Mischief, hands down. Every time.

2. What do you love most about being a bartender?

Aside from talking to all of the interesting people that sit at the bar at our concepts, I am truly passionate about making drinks that people thoroughly enjoy. The expression on a person’s face when they love something they have never tried before, makes me feel so great!!

3. What do you currently have as the wallpaper of your cell phone?

Third Eye Chakra

4. Would you rather have legs as long as your fingers, or fingers as long as your legs?

Ew. If I absolutely had to choose, I’d have to go with fingers as long as my legs. It kind of reminds me of that guy who was in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest fingernails… that’s what I would envision for myself.

5. Who is your all-time idol?

Rick Rubin. He’s an American record producer, co-founder for Def Jam Records and involved with so many other things – just an incredible dude. He discovered the Beastie Boys & Red Hot Chili Peppers… how could he not be my idol? He also does a lot for the community and is passionate about everything he does.


Tagged , , , , , ,

Staff Secrets: FEDERAL PIZZA

Discover surprising food combinations at our restaurants by those who know it best: our staff!

  Dan Lee is a bartender at Federal Pizza and our very own Certified Beer Server!! His high energy and ability to compliment food with craft beer will take any regular dining experience to the next level. We’ve asked him to clue us into what he orders most often…


Pepperoni Pizza

 Garlic Olive Oil (substituted for Pizza Sauce)

Mozzarella Cheese

Castelvatrano Olives

For you fellow beer lovers, Dan recommends Green Flash Brewing Company’s Hop Head Red as the best compliment to this pizza. “This Double Red India Pale Ale is incredibly unique. It’s creamy, sweet, roasty-ness mixes well with the delicious mozzarella cheese and delicate crust. At the same time, there’s a good amount of Amarillo hop character, which pairs nicely with the spice of the pepperoni. For me, it’s basically comfort food.”

Next time you stop into Federal Pizza or pick up to-go food from our drive thru, give Dan’s favorite pizza and beer combo a try. Oh, and don’t forget to say hello to Dan behind the bar – you can’t miss this tall, handsome fella!

Tagged , , ,

Up and Out: From Postino to the Vineyards of France

Daniel Gerard was part of the Upward Projects family at Postino, then moved to France to work on a vineyard. We got in touch with him to learn more about his journey and what the future holds.

We love his story!!

Daniel Gerard

What brought you to Postino? 

While staying with a friend and trying to get back on my feet after a tough time, I went to La Grande Orange every morning for a pick-me-up breakfast. I interviewed with them but learned that they did not have any positions available.  They suggested I walk over to Postino and try my luck there.

As soon as I walked in the door, I knew Postino was the place dreams were made of.  It ended up being the place that would give me the materials and tools to build my dream from a crumpled-up blueprint still guarded in my pocket.

How did you make the decision to pack up everything and move to France to chase your dream? Tell us that story. 

When I was a child, I never imagined growing up to become an adventurer or a farmer.  I’ve always enjoyed drinking wine but I never actually considered the painstaking process it took to create it.

One afternoon in early June 2010, at Postino Central, I was delighted to see a regular guest and friend of mine waltz through the front door. She and her friends were celebrating; her sister from Phoenix had married a winemaker in the Côtes du Rhône. She offhandedly said, “I wish you could try his wine”.  I asked if there was a chance I could work on her brother-in-law’s vineyard and she offered to ask.  After a short email conversation and a long distance phone call, I learned if I could scrounge up the plane ticket, there were grapevines awaiting my arrival in Saint-Cecile-des-Vignes in Provence.

Daniel Gerard

If you were to give any advice to those contemplating a big life move, what would it be? 

It’s important to take advantage of opportunities if they’re in our best interest — some may never come around a second time.

Before you aim towards a new adventure, make sure your path is firmly connected to the other side. Visualize your objective and commend yourself with each step you take in its direction.  Remind yourself constantly that it is possible! Your potential is limitless. Keep your head up with your eyes on the prize.

Like the French say, “Il faut rêver.” (It’s necessary to dream)

What do you miss the most about the states? 

I miss the proximity to my family and friends—the people that made me laugh every day. I miss my dog, my Jeep Wrangler, and the winding mountain roads in Arizona. I miss being an American in America, speaking English, watching live sports, less-expensive supermarkets, peanut-butter, and spicy food.


What’s the best thing about France? 

The accent, the bread, the cheese, the weekend marketplace for fruit and veggies, and yard-sale items.  I love the authentic six-course French cuisine at a dinner table with a big family on a vineyard, the city festivals, the architecture, the history, the landscape, the women, the Mediterranean beaches, et bien sûr (of course) the wine.

What song would play at your funeral?

Purple Rain – Prince

Where will you be in 5 years?

The ultimate goal is to purchase and grow my own grapevines so I can produce a small-label organic red wine.  One of the most essential parts to a great wine is the “terroir”.  It’s important to discover the perfect combination of climate, soil-character, sun, and landscape. I’ve got to find a place to build my castle and my treasure hunt is still on!

Daniel Gerard

Anything else you want to add? 

Yes, please!  First, the reason I want to share a bottle of my wine with the world is to combine the forces of flavor, laughter, and music. I want to contribute to the phenomenon of the Postino Effect.

Second of all, some people might say the adventure is too dangerous for them. I say that routine is deadly. Break the cookie-cutter mold and the robot routine—it is never too late.  Do what makes you feel good. Go out and live your dream.

From the Garden of Chef Christopher Newstrom

Our Culinary Director at Upward Projects, Christopher Newstrom, spends his spare time cultivating a lush garden in his backyard.  This beauty will be a multi-colored ear of corn soon!

Newstrom Corn

Do you have anything growing in your garden?

Interview with Pizza Maker Extraordinaire: Anthony Tatum

Anthony Tatum

We sat down with one of our pizza chefs at Federal Pizza to learn more about the process of making the perfect pie.  You can learn more about this process by watching our Life of a Pizza video or by visiting Federal Pizza!  Today, hear about it from one of our chefs, Anthony Tatum!!

Anthony Tatum

If pizza dough were a person, what kind of person would it be?
Pizza dough is very sensitive so I’d say pizza dough would be like a child.  You can’t overexert it.  You have to be nice to it!

What’s the most complicated part of working with pizza dough?
Being able to notice the change in the dough over time.  It changes day to day.  Things like how it was rolled, how long it’s been at room temperature, the weather, etc. all have a huge impact on it.

What’s the weirdest topping you’ve ever had on a pizza?
Pears!  That’s crazy on a pizza.

What’s the most challenging part about making a pizza once it’s in the oven?
Letting the dough solidify enough to move it around so it won’t burn.  Avoiding moving it too early because then it will rip.

Start to finish, what’s your favorite part of the pizza-making process?
I love watching the pizzas cook in the oven.  The transition from a raw pizza to a finished product within 5 minutes is pretty awesome!

Anthony Tatum