Korean-American entrepreneur Juliette Chung followed her heart and moved from Seoul to the United States in 1996. The young wide-eyed bride wanted to start a business but had a predicament: She had never worked before. With the encouragement of her husband and business partner, John Hughes, she took up cooking and soon became a master baker. A small coffee shop in Laguna Beach kicked off her culinary career (she eventually sold that concept to Panini Café), followed by a decade helming the kitchen at The Filling Station in Old Towne Orange.
After selling the successful Filling Station in 2010, Chung wanted a break. “I was seriously burned out,” she says. So she took a much-needed yearlong sabbatical. Chung and Hughes fled Orange County. They traveled. They ate. And they drank a lot of wine. Inspired by a transformative journey through Napa Valley and the Central Coast, in 2012 the couple set up a new shop: the quaint tasting room in Newport Beach known as Juliette Kitchen + Bar.
They enlisted the talents of locally trained chef Daniel Hyatt, who continues to bring Chung’s dream menu to life. “Seasonal, small delicious plates is what we enjoy,” she says. On a recent afternoon, Coast caught up with Chung. Dressed in a black-and-white lace mini dress with her dark hair cropped short, the restaurateur sipped on a chilled glass of rosé as she reminisced about her two decades long career cooking in Orange County.
Coast: How did your culinary career begin?
Juliette chung: I am completely self-taught as a baker. When I bought my first coffee shop and bakery, Sweet Dots, in Laguna Beach, I had little experience. But learned very quickly. I made a lot of mistakes, but that’s how I gained insight.
Coast: How did your next endeavor, The Filling Station in Old Towne Orange, come to fruition?
jc: At the time I was looking for a location. So, I was driving all over. I saw a small sign on the side of the window. And I just had to ask the owners, “Are you going to sell it?” It turns out they were desperate to sell. After we bought it, we gutted space [on Glassell Street] and removed this odd little flower shop next door. The neighborhood changed all around us. It was very different when we first opened.
Coast: What did your time at The Filling Station teach you?
jc: The Filling Station was our baby. We built that restaurant from scratch and I baked there for 11 years, until we sold it in 2010. It was there that I learned how to be a restaurateur –…