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Restaurant couple combining Swedish and Japanese culture

Japanese exchange student Masumi Mikawa and Swedish chef Emanuel Gustavsson met for the first time in connection with a Japanese dinner at Linnaeus University. The meeting eventually resulted in love and in 2009 they started Cafe St. Clair together, the restaurant that has become an important social meeting point in Alvesta.
– Together with our guests we are like a large family
Alvesta • Publicerad 11 juni 2019
Foto: David Färdigh

Opening day, December 13th, 2009, started somewhat chaotic. That morning Masumi and Emanuel realised they didnt have a coffee maker, a rather important aspect of a café and restaurant.

– The crisis was averted by borrowing one from a friend, and then the day continued with me baking a chocolate cake for the guests, Masumi recollects.


Chaos, although in more of a controlled manor, arises every now and then at Café St. Clair since the guests arrive in full force. The establishment has become a beloved spot people from Alvesta and Växjö alike, some even drive from Värnamo or Halmstad. Numerous regulars eat both their breakfast and lunch here.

– Sometimes some of the regulars will call and let us know that they wont be able to come today or that they are running late. They know wed worry in case they wouldnt show up.

That familiar atmosphere is characteristic for St. Clair.

– Theres a lot of love. Good food and incredible staff, according to Tomas whos been honoured with his own name-tagged coffee cup.

The story of St. Clair originates in 2000. Emanuel was working as chef at restaurant Kristina at Linnaeus University, whom every year arrange a Japanese dinner for the exchange students. This time one of the participants was Masumi.

– Im originally from Kyoto but since I was a child, I wanted to see the world. During my travels I met some swedes and though that they were so nice, I applied to Sweden and found myself in Växjö. I knew right away I was in the right place.

Masumi and Emanuel met for the first time at the Japanese dinner, however their love wouldnt ignite until a few years later.

– I had been working as a tourist guide in Lappland but ended up going back to Växjö, I met Emanuel and we became a couple.

They then moved to Alvesta and Masumi decided to fulfil her dream of owning a Café and restaurant. It just so happened that there was a vacancy on main street.

– Emanuel said NO, NO and NO. I said YES, YES and YES!


Once it was decided, their focus was to serve food from all over the world. Which include everything from Swedish home cooked meals to Japanese sushi, American hamburgers and Italian pasta.

– It cant be the same dishes week after week. We like variation. The menu is decided based on what we like and what we are craving at the time.

Apart from lunches there is also fika, a phenomenon thats popular in both Sweden and Japan.

– Yes, both Swedes and Japanese love fika.

However, running a restaurant as a couple isnt always easy. Initially there was some conflicts.

– We fought a lot during the start since we had different philosophies on how to run things.

How did you solve the issues?

– By dividing the tasks. Nowadays Emanuel oversees the kitchen while I deal with the service and customers, Masumi tells us.

Later this year is the ten-year anniversary for St. Clair which will be celebrated in a few ways. Next year Emmanuel and Masumi plans to take some of their regulars on a trip to Kyoto, Japan.

– We want to show them japan in March when the cherry blossoms bloom, thats when the country is the most beautiful.

David FärdighSkicka e-post
Så här jobbar Mosaik Vxonews med journalistik. Uppgifter som publiceras ska vara korrekta och relevanta. Vi strävar efter förstahandskällor och att vara på plats där det händer. Trovärdighet och opartiskhet är centrala värden för vår nyhetsjournalistik.