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Decorated SLU Alum Makes an Impact Globally and Locally

Located in the heart of The Grove, Everest Cafe is a subtle, yet colorful touch to the lively food-scene in St. Louis. Serving a blend of Nepalese, Indian, and Korean food, this long-standing restaurant of 22 years attracts visitors from around the world, students from one of the many nearby Universities, and locals, who consider Everest Cafe a regular spot in their dining rotation.

Devi States, PhD, DHSc, MPH, MSW, MS poses with his degrees that are proudly displayed on the wall at Everest Cafe.
Devi States, PhD, DHSc, MPH, MSW, MS poses with his degrees that are proudly displayed on the wall at Everest Cafe..

But what makes Everest Cafe special is not its food, but rather the head and heart of the business, owner and operator, Devi Gurung States, Ph.D. Welcoming, out-going, and friendly to all, this SLU public health and social work alum has dreamed big his entire life, and Everest Cafe is only one piece of the puzzle.

Born in Nepal, States became an orphan as a teenager when his parents died from a landslide caused by a monsoon. Living in a country with a class divide, and with no network, resources, or job access, States became unhoused in Kathmandu. After living on the streets for nearly two years, States finally found a job at a restaurant washing dishes and busing tables. 

Working at “K.C. Restaurant” is where he met what he refers to as his “American father”, who was a doctor from the United States that visited the restaurant regularly during a climb of Mt. Everest. After learning about States and his story, the doctor offered to bring States to the United States and provide him with housing and education.

States was adopted by the doctor and attended high school in Spokane, Washington and then received his bachelor’s degree from Eastern Washington University. Reflecting on where he came from and where he wanted to go, States developed two dreams, which he describes as “not my passion, but I feel it is my karma.” 

First, he dreamed of owning his own restaurant. Second, he dreamed of helping women and children who are poor and suffering as he once was. 

With these missions guiding him, States continued to collect knowledge, certifications, and degrees throughout his life; currently completing his third Doctoral degree in addition to his three Master's degrees, two of which are from Saint Louis University. Now that he has the opportunity and the access, States loves to learn and set the example that no matter where you come from, you can achieve anything you dream of. States also holds the philosophy that knowledge is wealth, especially after his interaction with the Dalai Lama while he was working as his driver on the religious leader’s trip to St. Louis.

“He told me in Buddhist philosophy rich means to have a wealth of knowledge. Money is temporary. It comes and goes. I told him my life story and he told me ‘You’re rich,’” States said.

Although, it is clear that it’s not money that drives States to get out of bed each morning. After arming himself with a wealth of knowledge during his time receiving his Master's of Public Health and Master's of Social Work at SLU in the mid-’90s, and becoming inspired by the Jesuit mission, States used what he learned in the programs to develop his own non-profit. 

Himalayan Family Healthcare Project was developed by States in 2010 as the ‘second piece’ of his life’s work, where he runs a clinic and health education center serving poor women and children in the rural areas of Nepal. Services include things like neonatal counseling, group connections, domestic violence shelter, and health care access, all largely funded by the profits of Everest Cafe.

Everest Cafe sits at 4145 Manchester Ave. in The Grove neighborhood of St. Louis City.
Everest Cafe sits at 4145 Manchester Ave. in The Grove neighborhood of St. Louis City.

States not only takes care of those in his home country, but is also involved in the community health efforts of his adopted country as well. On Tuesdays, States volunteers at a pro-bono clinic where he works with Type 2 Diabetes patients providing them with cholesterol checks and diabetes education to help them manage their disease. 

He also prioritizes the health of his customers, going the extra mile to serve high-quality, nutritious food free of excess fat, oil, and frying in an attempt to combat high rates of stroke and diabetes that he recognized burdens the city of St. Louis. States is also a part of a multicultural coalition in St. Louis, and you might find him serving food at community events such as the Night of Nepal at Saint Louis University, or the Festival of the Nations held in Tower Grove Park every fall.

Next time you find yourself in The Grove, stop by the quaint and comforting Everest Cafe, where you can read the stories that have been told about States and his dreams, or transport yourself to his clinic in Nepal by looking at the frames that decorate the walls of his restaurant. Maybe even strike up a conversation with States or his wife, where you might casually receive life-changing advice, such as this one tid-bit left by States:

“To be successful you need 3 things in life. First, you have to have a dream. I have a dream and I’m still completing it. Second, you share your dream with someone you love. I share my dream with my wife and my father and they both support me. Third, it does not matter how long it takes. Pursue it," States said. "These are the things that are very important to be successful.”

To learn more about Everest Cafe, check out their website

To learn more about the Himalayan Family Healthcare Project, check out their website

College for Public Health and Social Justice

The Saint Louis University College for Public Health and Social Justice is the only academic unit of its kind, studying social, environmental and physical influences that together determine the health and well-being of people and communities. It also is the only accredited school or college of public health among nearly 250 Catholic institutions of higher education in the United States. Guided by a mission of social justice and focus on finding innovative and collaborative solutions for complex health problems, the college offers nationally recognized programs in public health and health administration.