AS the tantalising scent of spicy curry wafts through Colchester town centre, hungry office workers know it’s time to eat.

But for Ken Flatt, 29, who runs the Chickpea curry stall on Colchester Market, it’s time for business.

He has run the stall on market days, for two-and-a-half years and now has a loyal clientele.

He says: “It’s brilliant. Most of my business is on a Friday and it has become a tradition at some offices.

“Businesses which have moved away even send someone in to town with their orders, so they can still have my curries. We cater for about 150 covers on Fridays.”

Ken, who lived in Dubai as a teenager, discovered his love of all things spicy when he returned to England to study media, technology and production at Bradford University.

Mingling with foreign students in a city known for its curry houses, he got to sample their delights and gain an appreciation of world cuisine. Thai cookery lessons from his mum also helped Ken to eat better than most of his beans on toast-munching fellow students.

After leaving university he did several jobs which helped him realise cooking truly was his passion. He explains: “My heart just wasn’t in the subjects I’d studied.

“I found I really liked cooking for people, so I got a job as a chef at a pub in Bures, where I was living.

“But it meant I saw less of my friends than I did when I was living 300 miles away because the hours were so long.

“I’d always wanted to do mobile catering, so I tried the stall idea on the market to see how it would go, and I’m still here.”

Ken has since expanded and now also offers events catering and takes the Chickpea to festivals.

Cooking for shoppers in Colchester is fairly predictable and can be planned, but festivals are a different matter, Ken says.

He had to borrow money to buy enough ingredients to trade at Colchester Free Festival last year.

He recalls: “We were sitting there with a fridge full of food – we took a huge risk. We worked 14 hours straight, as hard as we could without eating anything, or having a break. but it was a fantastic day.”

Ken, of Mersea Road, Colchester, has also recently starting cooking at the Bull pub, in Crouch Street, offering a regular curry club night on Wednesdays, as well as his Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday stints at Colchester market.

The entrepreneur cooks all his food on the stall so it is always fresh and says he particularly enjoys contact with customers.

He explains: “Working in a kitchen, you are isolated from people who eat your food, but working on a market stall, you usually have a chat with your customers. They ask when you are going to make something they particularly enjoyed again, and give you feedback.”

He remembers his first day on he stall as “terrifying”. His mum gave him a lift to town from Bures, where he was living at the time.

Then there was the time he had to rush back home for an essential bit of kitchen equipment he’d forgotten.

He adds: “I feel so lucky to have something I really love doing and can make a living out of. It is nerve-racking because you feel you only have to make one bad curry and it may destroy your reputation.”

Unlike some businesspeople who are intent on expansion and vast profits, Ken says he is happy to continue doing what makes him happy – cooking and making music.

He plays double bass in local singer Jasmine Ava’s band – so at this year’s Colchester Free Festival, he’ll be juggling his time between the stall and the stage.