Earlier this year Dave Hadley dominated cult fav Food Network's Chopped, but the young Denver chef isn't resting on any laurels just yet. With new found national fame, Hadley is still crafting culinary masterpieces (particularly as sous chef at The Preservery) but also shifting additional focus to cannabis advocacy and legalization.
Hadley blends inspiration from his mother's South Indian background with his dad's St. Vincent upbringing for some truly unique flavors. Although he has since left edibles line Craft Concentrates, Hadley still crafts cannabis-infused dishes for various dining events—and, well, this column. MERRY JANE caught up with the dude to talk about growing up in Jersey, how life has changed since Chopped, and his furry kitchen companion.
Photo by @milehighandhungry
Samosas and Infused Cilantro-Mint Chutney
Samosa filling ingredients:
3 russet potatoes, boiled with skin off
6 peeled shallot, small dice
3 carrots, roasted, small dice
2 cups of snow peas (any pea or crunchy vegetable that's in season)
3 serrano pepper, minced
1/4 habanero pepper, minced
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/8 cup golden raisins
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
6 oz. ginger, chopped
6 oz. garlic, chopped
2 yellow onions, small diced
Spice mixture ingredients:
1 1/2 tablespoon mustard seed
1 1/2 tablespoon nigella seed
2 oz. curry powder
1 1/2 tablespoon fenugreek
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1 tablespoon coriander
1/3 cup has-infused coconut oil
Cilantro mint chutney ingredients:
2 bunches cilantro
1/4 peeled shallot
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons conger, chopped
1/4 cup mint leaves, packed
1 serrano pepper
1/3 cup white vinegar
2 cubes of ice
2 tablespoons hash-infused coconut oil
Salt, to taste
Add all spices and two tablespoons of oil to your pan. You should hear popping sounds!
Take your onion, peppers, garlic, ginger, and shallots and sweat them all in the pan with the spices. Add more if needed or looks dry; it should be caramelized.
Take your potatoes and grate them in a bowl. Add spice with vegetables, dried fruit, cilantro, and raw veg (if any) to create a filling.
Use wonton wrappers to create any type of "dumpling" shape you would like. I recommend an easy half moon or squares.
Fill wrappers and let dry. Turn your deep fryer up to 375. Once fried or cooked in a pan with shallow oil (use your weed oil for this), season with salt and let drip of any excess oil on a paper towel.
While cooling, add garlic, ginger, serrano, shallot, salt, oil, and ice to a blender. Blend into smooth, (THIS PROCESS NEEDS TO BE FAST) then quickly add vinegar, mint, and cilantro.
When finished, taste for brightness of acid and salt. It's very important to creating great chutney.
Dave Hadley's dog Puff. Photo by @milehighandhungry
MERRY JANE: You moved from New Jersey to Denver to pursue this lifted cuisine. Tell me about Jersey and Denver's respective cannabis cultures—besides legality, obviously.
Dave Hadley: I moved to Denver from New Jersey not only to do lifted cuisine—that was not my first intention. As a young college kid in New York, we all joked around that one of us one day was going to work "legally" in the marijuana industry; I guess I was the one picked.
For my college at the Culinary Institute of America. we were instructed to take a 6-month internship. My choice right away [I had to go to] Colorado.
Are you over 18?
[Around the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014] was the first year that recreational and medical [cannabis] both were coming into play. I moved to Aspen, Colorado for six months. Within the time I was in Aspen, I worked for James Beard semi-finalist Mark Fisher at a restaurant called Six89. While working in the valley, I met so many weed entrepreneurs and employees that could inform me about the true spectrum of marijuana. I knew there was business looking for chefs. So I started writing down "tasting notes" as if you were doing wine. Color, name, smoke, flavor, history behind the plant. As I was finishing my time in Colorado, I had to go back to finish my Bachelor's Degree. As soon as I finished school a year and half later, I moved to Denver. I've never left since.
The difference between New Jersey and Denver culture is very apparent. Whenever I go home—which is rarely, unless I'm seeing the parents—I always feel I still have to hide my weed! It's crazy. In Denver, we have a community trying to normalize it.
Generationally speaking, many are still against [cannabis]. But I truly feel safe here in Denver taking part of a business that's booming, a generational idea that can change perspectives. I also feel neighborhood-wise, marijuana isn't the "so-called drug" killing people.
How has your career changed since winning Chopped?
My career has changed in a couple ways. I'm now on the search to be able to bring my flavors and cuisine to the Denver people; I know its good, and I know I can do it. I'm also very humbled and blessed to go apprentice for the No. 1 Restaurant in Asia, Gaggan ... at the end of August. It's time to just keep pushing the bar and myself. Being so young, I don't want to plateau or just be the guy that won Chopped. I want to be an example and mentor to younger adults—showing that YOU CAN do it. It's hard work, anyone will tell you. But having the confidence in myself is what has changed since the win. A lot of opportunities have arrived ... I hope to [capitalize] on something that is important to me fully and I can put my all into.
Are you over 18?
You've cited your parents' Caribbean and Southern Indian upbringing as inspiration for your work. Can you explain that a little further? Also, how does that pose challenges for infusing cannabis?
My parents Caribbean and Southern Indian flavors defiantly influence me on my everyday ideas. I have always somewhat been distant to those flavors just because I didn't think people would really love them—boy, was I mistaken. I truly thrive on trying to work everyday food into those flavors. I always said my goal is to use Colorado seasonal produce for a modern Southern Asian/Caribbean cuisine type of restaurant, with a patio for marijuana use but also a private dining room used for tasting events that have infusion classes, etc.
As I said on Chopped, this is the food I cook at home, this is the food I've eaten since I was 4. This is me. ... Cooking with marijuana is not difficult––it's about knowing your dosing.
Your dog Puff is your right-hand man. Tell us more about your furry companion. How does he help around the kitchen?
Puff's my dude. He's five pounds. I've had him for a year. He's a magic dragon. For some odd reason, Puff really enjoys weed. He responds very well if he comes into contact but he also uses CBD. Because of his small weight, he gets 0.25mg of CBD every two days. He "looks for it" like it was a treat.
He helps in the kitchen by keeping the floor clean! He really likes Indian food—it's funny, for a little guy he likes his white rice!
Are you over 18?