An award-winning Birmingham chef was just minutes away from tragedy in Nepal after a landslide caused by the massive earthquake sent rocks crashing into the road.
Ganeth Shrestha, former head chef at Shimla Pinks on Broad Street, was travelling with relatives by car to visit Nepalese family members and was up to five hours away from Kathmandhu when the earthquake struck.
The tremor sent large rocks tumbling into the road – but Ganeth’s party had stopped for a toilet break just minutes before disaster struck on the mountainous road.
His children, who help run Birmingham’s only Nepalese restaurant, the Jojolapa in Newhall Street, today told the Post of their huge relief at their father’s fortunate escape.
His daughter Shreeti Crome said: “We originally found out about the earthquake through Facebook. He had gone out to Kathmandhu in mid-March to visit family.
“I checked all the news and it was all over every single headline. I was not able to contact him straightaway, none of us could get through to him.
“I eventually got through to him a couple of hours later. For two hours there was nothing we could do. He was travelling to Hetauda, another village, to visit relatives there.
“They were a good four or five hours away from Kathmandhu. They decided to make a toilet stop, if they hadn’t managed to stop, it doesn’t bear thinking about what could have happened. There were landslides with large rocks falling onto the road. He was just lucky that they stopped for 15 minutes. They saw all the rocks falling down from the mountainside. He had my elderly grandmother, his mother in law, with him.
“You could only make contact through devices such as Skype but it was such a relief. Everyone had to stay and sleep outside initially, it was in everyone’s interests.
“They didn’t have any accommodation to start with, they were all sharing food, there is a big sense of community, everybody has rallied round. It is in the 20s in the day time, but very cool in the evening.
“He was staying outside in a field, everybody was outdoors. The usual protocol following an earthquake is to stay outside and above ground. All the family were sleeping outside to start with.
“He is now back in Katmandhu, he went back there last week. His own house has been damaged, there are a few cracks and the surrounding wall has fallen down, but it’s minor damage compared to others.
“They are still having after-shocks. He was initially very shook up, we are not sure when he is coming back, we want him back as soon as possible; my mum is over here. He is still doing as much as he can to help out there.”
His son Sanju said his father, now 67, was well known in the Birmingham business community after 10 years as a successful chef at Shimla Pinks on Broad Street.
“He has won numerous awards, including an Egon Ronay award for British Oriental Chef of the Year.
“He has been in the UK for 45 years and has always been a chef, first working in Bristol, before he moved to Birmingham. He was head chef at Shimla Pinks and worked there for 10 years but always had a dream of opening his own restaurant.
“His passion has always been to have a restaurant like this and he helped launch Jojolapa, and we have now been going for eight years.”
* The Newhall Street restaurant is holding a special charity evening next Wednesday to raise funds for earthquake victims, with prices at £35 a ticket. A sponsored bike ride will also be held on June 7 from Jojolapa to Kidderminster. Contact Sanju Shrestha for details on 07828-255189.