A HENLEY woman has quit the corporate world for a new career selling curries.
Samantha Thirlby-Smith became business development manager for the Authentic Nepalese Curry Tent in January.
The venture is staffed by former Gurkhas and serves traditional Nepalese food at festivals and private functions.
It operates from a 144 sq ft army tent that contains a fully-functioning kitchen and employs 20 chefs aged from 31 to 72.
A portion of the proceeds goes to the Gurkha Welfare Trust.
Mrs Thirlby-Smith, of Greys Road, used to be director of UK and US recruitment for GlaxoSmithKline until she resigned four years ago and more recently was a sales assistant at Precious Love jewellers in Henley.
She was offered her latest role after seeing the curry tent at the Hideaway Festival in Fawley Hill last summer and chatting to owner Chris Haywood. Mrs Thirlby-Smith said: “I don’t think Chris believed I was serious when I first spoke to him but I got back in touch and it went from there.
“By then I’d already decided that I never wanted to return to the corporate world. I had to spend a lot of time travelling but it had got to the point where I needed something I could put my heart and soul into. This came along at just the right time and now it’s my passion.”
The business is based at Church Crookham, near Aldershot, where there used to be a Gurkha barracks until it shut in 2000, and is an offshoot of Mr Haywood’s event security company Topher, which employs only Gurkhas.
The idea came about when Mr Haywood’s staff began cooking their own food at festivals where they were working and members of the public would ask to try some.
Mrs Thirlby-Smith has booked the tent to cater at more than 20 events this summer and it returned to Fawley Hill in May for the Steam and Vintage Weekend.
The chefs will also be serving food at a fund-raising event at Henley town hall on November 15 with proceeds going to the Royal British Legion and the trust.
Mrs Thirlby-Smith said: “The feedback from customers has been phenomenal. We’ve had a very promising start and now we’re ready to take it to the next level.”