Business owner crafts gingerbread display: All are welcome to view the Christmas decor

Published 12:05 am Saturday, December 7, 2019

LAPLACE — By the time October rolls around, customers who visit Chung’s Heavenly Café are already asking what the annual Christmas gingerbread display will look like.

It’s been a holiday tradition since Chung Cutno opened the café in winter 2009. This year, visitors who come to 607 Belle Terre Boulevard Suite J in LaPlace will see a large gingerbread plantation, complete will intricate details to match the historic houses along the river.

The gingerbread base is adorned with a “Smarties” candy sidewalk, pretzel stairs and windows, candy strip décor, Cinnamon Toast crunch roof tiles, and plenty of small candies for the finer details. Peering into the entrance reveals a Christmas tree on the inside of the home. Tiny wreaths, Christmas carolers, snow flurries and a Santa Claus clinging to the roof bring the holiday scene to life.

“I do this every year, and this is the 10th anniversary,” Cutno said. “We had the Tourist Commission open over here (on Belle Terre). I’m a tour guide, so I thought maybe I could build a plantation. A new hotel opened and there are a lot of tourists coming in, so I like them to see the plantations.”

Some customers have asked if the gingerbread house depicts Houmas House Plantation. It doesn’t, but there are common elements shared by many plantations reflected in the design. Cutno put her tour guide knowledge to work to design a historically accurate piece.

It took three weeks for Chung Cutno to add intricate details to her gingerbread creation, which can be viewed at 607 Belle Terre Boulevard Suite J in LaPlace.

The gingerbread plantation has doors on all four sides because air condition did not exist in the antebellum days, and multiple entrances were needed to air out the home. On top of the roof of the gingerbread house, there are railings and two bells. Cutno said this represents where the plantation owners used to stand and watch other businessmen arrive to shore from the Mississippi River.

This year’s gingerbread display took approximately three weeks to make. Since there are only a few weeks separating Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2019, Cutno got to work in early October and finished around Halloween.

She made a separate gingerbread tree house for her grandbabies. The tree house is also on display at 607 Belle Terre Boulevard, surrounded by a collection of Chef Santa Claus figures. Other holiday decorations in Chung’s Heavenly Café include hanging snowflakes, Christmas music, a Christmas tree, a small village and plenty of signs.

Past gingerbread houses have been more like villages, reaching the length of a table. Last year represented the New Orleans Saints’ successful season, and one in the past was built in honor of fallen St. John the Baptist Parish officers Jeremy Triche and Brandon Nielsen.

Building the gingerbread houses isn’t so much a test of patience as it is a display of creativity. When designing the plantation, Cutno imagined walking through it step by step. Decorating the houses is not always easy, however. This year, it took time to get the candy strips that wrap around the plantation columns to stick in place and not end up falling to the floor.

The gingerbread tradition started when Cutno’s children were young and picked up years later.

“After Halloween, we would make a small one at home with the candies they collected,” Cutno said. “Then I was in a pastry class, and the final test was the gingerbread house. We made it and donated it to children’s hospital. Before I opened this business, I planned to make the gingerbread house every year. I’ve told myself before, it takes almost one month of work, so maybe I don’t need to do it this year. But people are asking me, so I couldn’t skip this.”

Bringing the holiday flair to the café means too much, Cutno said.

“I want to share the holiday spirit with the customers,” she said. “When people walk in, people say, wow, look at this place. I can feel Christmas in here. It’s my joy.”

Chung’s Heavenly Café serves pastries, beignets, king cakes, sandwiches, soup, mandarin chicken, Korean poboys and much more. For more information, call 985-359-7987.


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