Two years ago, Vijay Brihmadesam had a cushy finance job at a private equity firm in Palo Alto, Calif.
But that all changed after Brihmadesam ran into Jason Pate, a former classmate at Duke University. The two happened to be on the same plane and struck up a conversation about their dissatisfaction with their jobs.
“The economy was bad at the time, so we were happy for our jobs in finance,” Brihmadesam told Business Insider. “But we wanted to be doing more than the rat race of Wall Street and start contributing to the community in a way that felt meaningful to us.”
The friends came up with an idea to open a fast-casual restaurant with Indian food. When Brihmadesam got back to San Francisco, he got another friend, Hasnain Zhaidi, on board.
“There was no cheap, convenient, place to get healthy Indian food at the time,” Brihmadesam said. “I wanted to serve Indian food in a casual setting that was like what I ate growing up.”
Thus, the concept for Tava Indian Kitchen was born.
But before launching into a completely new industry, Brihmadesam and his two friends decided they needed some on the ground experience.
And so the trio applied to work at Chipotle.
They were hired on the assembly line and worked there for several weeks.
“Chipotle is great because they took authentic Mexican food and made it accessible to the masses,” Brihmadesam said. “I wanted Tava to do that for Indian food.”
Tava also implemented some of Chipotle’s ethical sensibilities. It gets its produce from local sources and only serves hormone-free meat.
Brihmadesam’s colleagues in finance didn’t hold a grudge: his first investment came from Bob Gay, the co-founder Huntsman Gay, Brihmadesam’s former emloyer.
By February 2012, the trio opened the first Tava Indian kitchen in Palo Alto. Six months later, they opened a second store in San Francisco.
The restaurant has become wildly popular in the Bay Area and has received rave reviews from hundreds of people on Yelp.
Today, Brihmadesam and his partners are working with on a plan to expand Tava.
He says he’s thrilled that he took a risk two years ago.
“A chance encounter changed the path of my life,” Brihmadesam said. “Taking the risk was scary, but I couldn’t be more thrilled with my career today.”