Why this British restaurant owner tried to launch his bestselling samosa into space
Niraj Gadher's samosa and bhaji wrap crossed the English Channel before landing in France
This article was first published on Jan. 13, 2021.
When food is tasty, it's often said to be out of this world. But one U.K. restaurant owner has taken that phrase literally by sending a samosa to space — or at least, across the English Channel.
Niraj Gadher is the owner of Chai Walla in Bath, England, a popular restaurant that makes vegan Indian street food.
He loaded one of his restaurant's bestselling samosas and a bhaji wrap into a homemade "spaceship" attached to gigantic helium balloons for the journey.
It took Gadher three attempts before the vessel successfully launched, flying high above his picturesque hometown. He also packed a GoPro camera into the spaceship, which captured video of the trip that he later shared on YouTube. The package ended up landing in the Somme region of France, approximately 500 kilometres from the launch site.
Gadher spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off about the journey. Here is part of that conversation.
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Niraj, just take us back and tell us when you first had this idea.
Three years ago, I was just in the shop and I just said, "I'm going to launch a wrap into space." And then, yeah, you know those things that you say you're going to do? You just have to do them.
What led you to suddenly say, "I'm going to send a wrap up into space?"
I don't know. I'm just one of those guys who just likes doing stuff.
Did you know anybody else who had sent anything into space?
No, but I saw a guy send something — a baguette — into space on YouTube, so I thought if he can do it, [I can.]
OK, so what did people say to you when you told them you had a plan to send this samosa into space?
No one believed me. Can you believe it?
Well, you know, I can't imagine why no one would believe you. You seem to be determined.
Yeah. And it was very clear.
Did you get anybody to help you? Just tell us a bit about how you went about doing this.
I messaged this guy on eBay who sells weather balloons. And I said to him, "This is what I want to do."
He was a ... big scientist guy, and he was just like, "This is the weirdest thing anyone's ever messaged me." And then he, like, entertained the idea. He told me what to get. And we've had a working relationship.
Then I kind of guessed my way there.
How did you decide what kind of samosa and wrap you would send into space?
Our bestseller, obviously.
All right. At Chai Walla, what are your bestsellers?
The samosa and the wrap. The bhaji wrap.
OK, so you got into this arrangement with this man who would give you the helium balloons.
Then what happened?
I got the balloons and then as I work, [I said,] "I got to go do this." So I just made the spaceship and then yeah, I think the video is basically what I did. I just kind of jumbled my way through it and my friends, they were like, "Yeah, let's film this."
WATCH | Video of the samosa's launch and flight. Warning: explicit language.
I made a little spaceship out of a polystyrene box. And then I got the tracker. Then we got a GoPro and then I realized it's not going to last that long, [so we] got extra batteries. Got a parachute as well, because you want the spaceship to land slowly, right? And then, yeah, it landed in ... France.
But now, some things did go wrong.
Yes. I let go of the first balloons and they just kind of flew off. On the second launch, yeah, I made another blunder. And then people around me heard how I messed it up.
One guy said to me, "Oh, you're obviously, like, what do you know? Like, why would you be able to do that?" But that made me even more determined.
I think the moral of the story to everyone is don't listen to anyone. Live your dreams. Don't give up.
And so you were successful in launching the samosa into space?
Pretty much. Pretty high up.
And how satisfying was that for you and your dreams?
Yeah, pretty good.
What happened to the samosa?
I think a fox ate it.
But you had a tracking device on it. Where did it go?
In France. Somme.
How do you know that? Tell us how you know where it landed.
Well, the GPS tracker gave its exact coordinates and then I messaged loads of people online and this one guy went and got it. And it was all there, except the samosa. Something ate it.
But there was a GoPro, so were they able to see what happened?
No, because the GoPro ran out like halfway through the journey.
Tell us about the phone call you got telling you that they'd found it.
I was sleeping and he sent me a video of him finding it and I was just like, "Yes! The journey's almost finished."
But obviously I didn't know how much of the footage we had, but we had quite a bit.
What did you see on the footage?
The wrap and samosa, really high up.
And so both the wrap and the samosa you feel were eaten by foxes?
I think so.
The guys who went to find it, they said, unfortunately — and I do not agree with this — but it was their hunting day. So this area was full of, like, foxes.
What are your customers saying about all of this?
They love it. They're just happy that Bath is now on the map.
Written by Mehek Mazhar. Interview produced by Chris Harbord. Q&A edited for length and clarity.