A taste of heaven returns: Chung’s Heavenly Café celebrates its grand reopening – L’Observateur

A Taste of Heaven Returns: Chung’s Heavenly Café Celebrates its Grand Reopening

Posted 11:09 am Tuesday, January 24, 2023

LAPLACE — It would have been the perfect excuse to retire.

The COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Ida created the perfect storm to bring business to a halt at Chung’s Heavenly Café. Rather than throw in the towel, owner Chung Cutno reopened the quaint cafe to the community in November 2022 after being closed for more than 14 months.

Officials from St. John the Baptist Parish joined her for an official grand reopening and ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 20 at 607 Belle Terre Blvd. Ste. J in LaPlace.

“My children told me it was time to retire. It would have been a good excuse to retire because there was no business, but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t tell people I closed because of Ida,” Cutno said. “I always think about how God gave me this place and He wouldn’t want it to end that way. When the time is right, God will end it in a good way.”

Before opening the cafe more than 12 years ago, Cutno would pass the then-empty Belle Terre shopping center and look longingly at the end suite, praying that one day it would be his. That dream came true, and Chung’s Heavenly Café has been a hidden gem of St. John Parish ever since.

Chung’s offers fresh fritters and a variety of cakes to satisfy your sweet tooth, as well as lunch items that blend Korean and local flavors. Specialty rice bowls, Korean barbecue, tomato basil soup, salads, and sandwiches have been popular over the years for dine-in and pick-up. Others have traveled to the cafe to take a look at the large-scale gingerbread houses Cutno designs during the holiday season.

The most popular items of late have been Cutno’s signature king cakes, carefully covered in a special cream cheese and sugar frosting.

Money has never been a priority for Cutno. Their goal was to provide something community-oriented, and that vision has kept the business alive through tough times over the past 12 years.

The last few years have been the most difficult of all, starting with the COVID-19 shutdowns. After being closed for three months, Chung’s was open only part-time for the next few months. Cutno remembers sitting alone in the cafe, feeling dejected, when a quote embroidered on a piece of cloth made her cry: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I hope not to have one bit of talent gone and I could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’”

He put his talents to work that year creating a paper replica of his gingerbread house. Just a year later, both his house and the cafe were severely damaged by Hurricane Ida. Cutno’s family was displaced for a year, including 10 months in a mobile home. While the leaky roof of the cafe was finally being fixed, the reopening was further delayed when Cutno tripped on building materials and had to undergo shoulder surgery. Meanwhile, her husband underwent extensive spinal surgery.

The road to finally reopening was a long one, but Cutno said it was worth it getting calls from locals saying, “Chung, I’m so glad you’re back” and “We’ve been waiting for you.”

“I’ve always said that everything happens for a reason, and I think the second grand opening happened for a reason as well,” he said. “I don’t know when I’ll retire, but I’m trying to do a really good business so the next owner has a good business with a good reputation to take over. I can make that legacy.”

Chung’s Heavenly Café’s hours of operation are 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. However, Cutno stays open late on demand during King Cake season for those who pick up orders after work. Orders can be placed by calling 985-359-7987.

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