Samosa shoppin’

Chef Dave Hadley builds a new menu for the latest Rosetta Hall stall

Photo by Colin Wrenn.

Dave Hadley’s voice is hard to miss. Folks have probably heard it booming through the farmers market since the chef opened his roving stall, Samosa Shop, a few years back. Or they may have caught it in their own home, during one of Hadley’s appearances on Food Network mainstays Chopped or Supermarket Stakeout. 

Wherever it was, Hadley was surely evangelizing the cuisine of Southern India. He speaks a mile a minute, with slang that quickly reveals his East Coast origins. Born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey, Hadley developed an early love for cooking. With a combined 12 aunts and uncles, he was exposed to the controlled chaos of entertaining from an early age. 

“Hospitality has always been at the forefront of my family. I just didn’t realize that was the word until later,” he says.

In 2010, Hadley began attending the Culinary Institute of America. “My parents tried to convince me not to go to cooking school,” he says with a laugh. But their attempt at sabotage went largely unnoticed, masked by an indomitable conviction. He’s since cooked at Mark Fischer’s Six89 in Carbondale, at Biju’s Little Curry Shop in Denver, as well as running a year-long stint at Gaggan Anand’s famed two Michelin-star Indian eatery in Bangkok. 

In August of 2020, he launched Samosa Shop. The project saw Hadley peddling thousands of samosas at markets largely around Denver, and gained traction at the many socially distanced events that sprang up that summer. Some of his stock leaned traditional, with choices like saag, vegan potato and tandoori chicken. There were also more outlandish flavors like the bacon and egg breakfast option. 

A couple of Chef Dave Hadley’s samosas. Photo by Colin Wrenn.

“There’s a business and then there’s passion food. That middle ground you gotta work for,” Hadley says. “No wonder my samosas take seven fuckin’ hours.” 

He will be relaunching the concept at both Boulder and City Park farmers markets beginning Saturday, May 6.

“Indian food has always been happening in America,” he says. “My goal is to educate people that there’s another idea than what Indian food is perceived as.”

On Wednesday, April 26, Hadley opened India in the Chameleon stall at Rosetta Hall. Over the course of the previous month, he acted as consulting chef, producing an eight-item menu and developing systems so that staff could execute the dishes in his absence. He taught a spice class and introduced cooks to a vocabulary they could use at India’s Grocery on 28th Street where he sources many of the ingredients he uses for Samosa Shop. 

The dishes all arrive with the high-mindedness that befits the chef’s pedigree. But it’s also memory-drenched home cooking, with details recalling the cuisine of Hadley’s mother and grandmother who grew up in the southwestern state of Kerala. 

“Dave is just so charismatic,” says Sarah Beckwith, Rosetta’s director of operations. “He brings so much passion about the cuisine that only someone who knows it intimately could.”

The menu is divided between four small plates and four robust mains. It’s essential to start with the pea and potato samosas, a plate of three that uses the same recipe that has made Samosa Shop such a powerhouse. From there the Cauliflower 65 is a good play, repurposing the classic dish made famous by the Hotel Buhari, Chennai, for a vegetarian crowd. Most dishes come topped with fresh and sautéed curry leaves, and everything is genuinely remarkable.

The star of the stellar lineup is the lamb vindaloo that comes atop a bed of upma, a grits-like porridge that tastes like buttered popcorn. 

“It’s my ode to Americana, but still from India,” Hadley says.

While Hadley admits he will not likely be particularly boots-on-the-ground with the Rosetta Hall project, the cooking is in good hands with Chef Mike Sullivan, who has been running the show across the concepts for more than two years. It’s currently open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner, though there are plans to shift the schedule to seven days a week come July 1. Beckwith says the project has no set end date. The team plans to run it through the summer, with Beckwith noting that it could potentially become a permanent fixture if the demand is there.