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Chung’s Heavenly Cafe feels right at home

LAPLACE — The bathroom walls of Chung’s Heavenly Café in LaPlace are filled with hundreds of handwritten notes of well wishes, representing loyal St. John the Baptist Parish customers and tourists who hail from across the globe.

The encouraging letters give Chung Cutno motivation to continue sharing her passion with the River Parishes.

Almost 10 years have passed since Cutno purchased a shop at 607 Belle Terre Boulevard Suite J in winter 2009.

After years of dreaming about the hospitality industry, Cutno worked in a hotel for three months and realized it wasn’t the right career for her. She was soon back in school, this time to become a pastry chef.

Driving out of her LaPlace subdivision each day, Cutno looked longingly at the then-vacant Belle Terre strip mall and prayed to God the suite on the end would one day be hers.
That dream came when she opened Chung’s Heavenly Sweets a year later. The name has since changed to Chung’s Heavenly Cafe, but it remains a hidden jewel of the Parish that offers customers a blend of Korean and local flavors in an inviting coffee shop atmosphere.

“When I opened this, my priority wasn’t money,” Cutno said. “I told everybody, I just enjoy the coffee shop, and people come here and enjoy their time. I’m really proud of this place. A lot of people say, Chung, we didn’t know that LaPlace had this kind of place. I’m just happy here, and the customers are really wonderful.”

Word of mouth has forged a lot of repeat customers, Cutno said. Situated on the first exit between Gonzales and New Orleans, Chung’s Heavenly Cafe sees a lot of Interstate travelers, including many European tourists.

Sometimes tourists stop to taste mouthwatering king cake or Cutno’s crispy beignets — the only beignets offered in St. John Parish.

A menu that began as coffee and sweets expanded over time to include sandwiches and soups, Cutno said. Options further expanded to include mandarin chicken, Korean po-boys and other favorites.
“Now the Asian fusions dishes are more popular than the sandwiches,” Cutno said.

Each winter, Cutno spends weeks carefully piecing together a large gingerbread hosue village to share holiday cheer with the community. One year, the gingerbread houses honored fallen St. John the Baptist Parish deputies Jeremy Triche and Brandon Nielsen.

Chung Cutno creates an annual gingerbread house display for locals inside of Chung’s Heavenly Cafe.

Others have featured bonfires or a tribute to her children and grandchild. The most recent gingerbread house, which still stands in the cafe, celebrates the New Orleans Saints.
United Front Transportation Services co-owners Dayna James and Shaun Adams frequent Chung’s Heavenly Cafe to hold meetings and interviews.

James, who recently encouraged Cutno to join the River Region Chamber of Commerce, said she enjoys the beignets and the breakfast sandwiches.

She described Chung’s as a hidden jewel of the parish.

“The atmosphere is so pleasant,” James said. “She’s a pleasant person. She’s a Christian lady, and it shows because he place is just comfortable. I encourage everyone in St. John Parish and outside the parish to try her food out. I promise you they will go back.”

Cutno is thankful for repeat customers, including teachers, nurses and Marathon employees who visit for lunch.