A taste of heaven returns: Chung’s Heavenly Café celebrates grand reopening

Published 11:09 am Tuesday, January 24, 2023

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LAPLACE — It would’ve 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. Instead of throwing in the towel, owner Chung Cutno reopened the quaint coffee shop and café to the community in November 2022 after being shut down for more than 14 months.

St. John the Baptist Parish officials joined her for an official grand re-opening and ribbon cutting ceremony on January 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 finish that way. When it’s time, God is going to end it in a good way.”

Before opening the café more than 12 years ago, Cutno would drive past the then-vacant Belle Terre strip mall and look longingly at the suite on the end, praying it would one day be hers. That dream came to fruition, and Chung’s Heavenly Café has since been hidden gem of St. John Parish.

Chung’s offers fresh beignets and an array of pastries to satisfy any sweet tooth, in addition to lunch items blending Korean and local flavors. Specialty rice bowls, Korean BBQ, tomato basil soup, salads and sandwiches have been popular through the years for dine-in and pick-up. Others have journeyed into the café to catch a glimpse of the large-scale gingerbread houses Cutno designs during the holiday season.

Lately, the most popular items have been Cutno’s signature king cakes, carefully brushed with a special cream cheese and sugar icing.

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

The past few years have been the hardest of all, starting with the COVID-19 shutdowns. After being closed for three months, Chung’s was open only part time for the next several months. Cutno remembers sitting alone in the café, feeling discouraged, when a quote embroidered onto a piece of fabric brought her to tears: “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’”

She put her talent to work that year creating a gingerbread-style replica of her house out of paper. Just one year later, both her house and the café would sustain severe damage from Hurricane Ida. Cutno’s family was displaced for a year, including 10 months spent in a camper. As roof leaks at the café were finally being repaired, reopening was further delayed when Cutno tripped on construction materials and had to have a shoulder surgery. Meanwhile, her husband underwent an intense spinal surgery.

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

“I’ve always said everything happens for a reason, and I think the second grand opening happened for a reason, too,” she said. “I don’t know when I’m going to retire, but I’m trying to make a very 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 business hours are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. However, Cutno stays open late upon request during king cake season for those picking up orders after work. Orders can be placed by calling 985-359-7987.