Devi Gurung States of Everest Cafe, Part 2
This is part two of Rease Kirchner's Chef's Choice profile of Devi Gurung States of Everest Cafe. Part one can be found here. Part three, a recipe from States, will be published tomorrow.
Did your family cook together when you were a child? My mother always cooked. I watched her. I observed her. Nepal is a very poor country. Not everyone has a fridge; you eat what's in the garden.
Rease Kirchner The exterior of Everest Cafe in the Grove.
How old were you when you started cooking? Sixteen years old, when I got to the U.S.
First cooking job? Spokane, Washington. A Chinese restaurant, Sea Garden. I didn't like it, it was so unhealthy!
Did you attend culinary school or college? If so, where and for how long? No.
What do you eat? I eat here [Everest Café]! I don't eat red meat, I like vegetables.
What do you cook at home? I never have time to go home and eat, I'm always here.
What are your three favorite restaurants in St. Louis (besides your own!)?
Oh I don't know, I don't visit a lot, but I like Crystal Grill, Malie and Sweet Tomato.
The local chef who most impresses you? Sun Farm isn't a chef, but they have a lot of organic food.
Your favorite restaurant elsewhere? I don't really have one, I don't eat out that much because I am so health conscious. I'm an old man!
Your favorite food city? St. Louis, I guess.
Favorite recent food find? I can't really think of one.
Most essential ingredient in your kitchen? Pressed garlic ginger. I peel the ginger root myself.
Favorite local food find, and where do you get it? I go to the farmers' markets to pick things out myself. But sometimes they claim it is from a farm, but it is still from Peru or something!
Five words to describe your food. Healthy, exotic, simple, light, fresh.
One food you dislike. Red meat.
A food you can't live without. Vegetables.
An ingredient never allowed in your kitchen. MSG, for sure.
Culinarily speaking, St. Louis needs more... Healthy food. I even tell my cooks to go exercise!
Best tip for home cooks. Use fresh ingredients.
Favorite after-work hangout. I like to exercise after work, and I go to a lot of health meetings. The community supports me, so I support the community.
Favorite kitchen tool. A knife is a chef's friend.
What's next for you? I'm writing a cookbook.
What inspires you? Challenges. I like challenging myself, [I ask] "What can I do for myself?" When I was homeless, I had nothing. Now have I everything -- why not take advantage of it?
Chefs who inspire you. I don't see a lot of health-conscious chefs, so I don't really have one.
Favorite cookbooks? I don't have any cookbooks.
Proudest professional moment? I'm thankful and proud every day that I have come this far and given back.
Favorite music to have in the kitchen I like peaceful, quiet, instrumentals or Kenny G.
What's on your pizza? I don't eat pizza.
What's in your omelet? Any vegetables.
What are you drinking? Red wine.
What's the most surprising food you've eaten? [Laughs] Maybe my [Korean] wife's. In Nepal, there is no seafood. I met my wife and ate squid.
What's the most difficult lesson you've learned in this business? Patience, respecting others and yourself. You can try the best you can, you can feed 100 people, but not all 100 will be satisfied. Ethically, I try my best to get people to eat healthy, but some people don't really care about health. You can't take it personally.
When did you know the chef's life was for you? When I was working as a busboy and dishwasher at KC's in Nepal.