Chef Dave Hadley may be a New Jersey boy, but he’s made a name for himself out in Denver, Colorado. Growing up in Martinsville, an unincorporated community located within Bridgewater, Hadley was always surrounded by food—especially dishes tied to his Indian culture. With a mix of his father’s West Indian culture and mother’s South Indian culture, Hadley now uses both as inspiration in his own world of food.
“I hope to grow with the city for the next 10 to 20 years,” said Hadley. “I want to become a name or a staple in Denver.”
After dominating on the Food Network’s Chopped in 2017, Hadley took his winnings to make a personal mark on his culinary path. Samosa Shop, his new pop-up in Denver, combines his Indian and American backgrounds to put a twist on the popular fried pastry with a savory filling.
Now, Hadley is coming back to the Food Network for a third time (the second being on Chopped Champions) to show just how quick and creative he can be in the kitchen. Supermarket Stakeout contestants bribe grocery store customers for their bags and turn what they get into a specific dish—something Hadley feels is one of his strongest skills.
We caught up with Hadley to discuss his experience on the show, history in the kitchen, and upcoming pop-up coming to New Jersey.
Table Hopping: Where did your love for cooking start?
David Hadley: When I was younger, my parents grew up feeding three kids. My dad and mom were never in the food industry. They were just always cooking for everybody and had this big hospitality feel to it. As I got older, me and all my guy friends wanted to be big sports stars, and my parents were very adamant on me pushing towards something more realistic and I got to go to the Culinary Institute of America.
TH: When did you make the jump from Jersey to Colorado?
DH: I had to do a six-month internship somewhere and I chose to go to Aspen, Colorado. From there it flourished into this New Jersey kid staying in Denver and building my culinary career from there. I’ve been here trying to figure out where my spot in the food industry is.
TH: You have a history with cannabis-infused food. What made you interested in that?
DH: I was working at cannabis facilities and working with edible production and working with people that were growing. As I was growing in the restaurant world, I was still trying to develop in this cannabis world and finding the balance between both, which is what I’m still doing.
I don’t sell myself 100 percent as the cannabis chef, because there’s people that have been doing this before me. I’m someone that’s just an advocate for it. This should be normalized instead of looked at as something different.
TH: And you took those ideas onto the Food Network. How did you end up being on Chopped and later on Chopped Champions?
DH: I used to work for chef Biju Thomas who was on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. He basically was the first guy to push me to do my own style of food. Two years later I was a sous chef at The Preservery in Denver and producers found me there. They were like, “Hey, we saw you at Biju’s and we think you’d be great on Chopped.” Working hard and pushing what I wanted to do is what helped me win Chopped. A lot of people tuned into my show in the beginning and they really liked the idea of the cannabis cookery, which got me on Chopped Champions.
TH: Now that you’re going to be on Supermarket Stakeout, you’re basically a Food Network veteran.
DH: I just like competition. It’s not that I like doing shows, I just like being competitive and doing things that are like that. There’s only one of me and I am that competitive guy.
TH: And for Supermarket Stakeout, you’re basically just making a meal of what people come out of the grocery with?
DH: You’re taking people’s groceries and using what they have to create a dish that represents the theme given. You don’t get to choose what you get, but what you do choose is how you speak to people, what they look like, how they interact with you. You could be getting dog food or acne cream and all of a sudden you’re like, “How do we make this into a grilled cheese?” But, I feel I’m the kind of guy that can create something great out of nothing that’s there.
TH: Was it odd filming this show during Covid?
DH: It was obviously weird this season, because we were in Covid and we were wearing masks. We had to be Covid conscious. On other seasons people were going right up to these people’s carts and rummaging through and things like that. We had to be a little bit different.
TH: What was your favorite part about the competition on Supermarket Stakeout?
DH: I had the best time with the people. Usually on shows like that you don’t become friends with anybody. It was nice because it was during Covid and it was hard to have that connection with people during the times of a pandemic. You become a part of a family because you’ve done something together. We were there on the set and just connecting over something together, that was why it was fun.
TH: Chopped vs. Stakeout. Was one more difficult than the other?
DH: To be honest with you, Chopped is way harder. Like, 100 percent. But, maybe if I did Chopped after I did Supermarket Stakeout I would have said different. But I’m not really scared of anything anymore! At the end of the day, it’s all about the learning experiences.
TH: What’s next for you as you build your brand in Denver and elsewhere?
DH: My new pop-up concept that I’ve been bringing to Denver, and soon New Jersey, is the Samosa Shop. It’s a mixture between my West Indian culture from my dad’s side and my South Indian culture from my mom’s side. It’s a blend of those flavors that bring Americanization to Indian food.
Most people think Samosa is the same pea and potatoes that you put together in a little hot pocket. For example, I made bacon, egg, and cheese and a sausage and peppers one. I’m creating pockets that are a little bit of something different to create my own flavor that people will recognize.
Chef Dave Hadley will appear on the Food Network’s Supermarket Stakeout on Tuesday, February 9 at 10 pm EST. A pop-up of his new Samosa Shop will be coming to New Jersey in early spring when he takes over the kitchen at Lombardi Pizza Co. in Martinsville, where he grew up. Chef Hadley will be serving samosas and Indian-style pizza, as well as a few other collaboration dishes with the restaurant. Check out his personal and Samosa Shop Instagram accounts for updates on his culinary journey.Click here to leave a comment