This is part one of Rease Kirchner's Chef's Choice profile of Devi Gurung States of Everest Cafe. Part two, a Q&A, will be published tomorrow, and part three, a recipe from States, will be available on Thursday.
Gut Check was very excited to head to the Grove neighborhood to speak with Dr. Devi Gurung States, head chef of the Everest Café (4145 Manchester Avenue; 314-531-4800). The restaurant looks small from the outside, but you can spot it by looking for the silhouette of Mount Everest on the window and a chalkboard reading "Namaste" in large letters.
Upon entering Everest you notice that the restaurant can actually hold quite a few people, which is good because it tends to be packed for lunch and dinner. The walls are decorated with colorful squares of fabric as well as the many awards the restaurant has been honored with over the years. The atmosphere is incredibly friendly and relaxing. All of the employees have genuine smiles and seem eager not only to serve you great food, but also to get to know you.
Perhaps they get their friendly nature from chef and owner, Devi Gurung States. States is the kind of man who is always smiling and constantly thankful for everything he has. His story is so inspiring that part of it is displayed on each of the tables. Gut Check can tell you the rest.
States was born in the Manang district of Nepal, near the Tibetan border. Tragically, both of his parents passed away when he was only fifteen years old. States was forced to walk two days to the town of Kathmandu, where he spent the next year living on the streets, scavenging food from garbage bags. He was eventually able to find work as a dishwasher and busboy at an English-speaking restaurant called KC's. It was at this restaurant that States formed his two greatest dreams and where his life changed for the better.
After living on the streets and working in the restaurant, States realized that he wanted to accomplish two things in his life: open his own restaurant and find a way to help improve health conditions for people. In 1992 States met the man that would help make his dreams a reality.
Dr. James States happened to visit KC's after an attempt to climb Mount Everest. He found himself in conversation with young Devi Gurung and decided he wanted to help him. Although Devi was already sixteen years old and well past the normal adoption age, Dr. James States brought him home with him to Spokane, Washington, where Devi Gurung became Devi Gurung States and went on to finish high school and university.
States never attended culinary school. Instead he chose to get his masters in both social work and public health. He opened the Everest Café in 2004 with a mission he likes to call "H.O.P.E.," which stands for "Health Conscious, Open-Minded, Professional and Education."
Everest Café serves Nepalese, Indian and Korean food and puts a heavy focus on the health benefits of its food. States is so concerned with the health of his customers and of St. Louisians that he performs free health screenings at his restaurant (by appointment) every Sunday.
States has not forgotten his roots, either. He is the founder of the Himalayan Healthcare Project, an organization that works to improve the public health conditions in Nepal. Each year States and a group of volunteers visits Nepal in order to continue working toward States' dream of opening a public hospital for the citizens of Nepal.