Twenty years ago, former doctor Joshua Khan left Siberia for the west in search of a better life for his young family, with less than £600 in his pocket.
On arrival in the UK and renting a room, Joshua (52) couldn’t afford to re-train in medicine and instead took a manual job, building shelving, but dreamt one day of having his own restaurants where staff were treated fairly, paid well and the kitchen produced high quality, gourmet food with a reasonable price tag.
Having opened an international coffee shop in 1996 in Russia, Joshua said: “I had no money, not even enough to buy two bus passes for my wife and I, so we had to walk 15 miles a day to work instead.
“Sometimes in the evening, on the way back to the rented room, I would stop in Clapham High Street and look through restaurant windows at the white table cloths and couples holding hands over dinner and think that one day I would open my own restaurant.”
After quitting his manual job, Joshua went to work for NatWest, where he was offered a restaurant role by one of the bank’s customers. From there, his major breakthrough came when he got to work with acclaimed French chef Ollie Couillaud, whom he describes as his mentor.
Fast forward to today and Joshua has three thriving gastro pubs - the latest being The Great Shefford near Hungerford in Berkshire, which has undergone a £1m refurbishment, has a new menu and a new chef, Sam Cary, formerly of Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers in Marlow, and he is already looking for a fourth premises to add to his growing portfolio at J and G Pubs Ltd.
He added: “My wife and I arrived in London with one and a half bags with us and we started a whole new life. The UK is completely different to Siberia, not only because it is green for 12 months of the year. Everyone smiles in the UK and the people are polite. The UK is a multi-cultural society where, in my view, people are accepted whatever the colour of their skin, a contrast to Siberia where there was a great deal of racism.”
Under the creative eye of chef Sam, the menu at The Great Shefford includes dishes such as: burrata with shaved fennel and roasted seeds; fried duck egg, lardo, BBQ’d leek and sherry vinegar; bream, cauliflower, spinach, grape, foasted almonds and Vadouvan butter sauce; pork chop, pomme puree, confit beetroot, apple, hazelnut jus gras and pink peppercorn and lime pavlova.
Joshua added: “Having Sam now lead the kitchen at The Great Shefford makes me feel like Alex Ferguson when he signed David Beckham! We are delighted to welcome him to the kitchen and are excited about what he brings to The Great Shefford.”