September 24, 2007

Chun Mee reopens after owner suffers facial burns

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

An average Friday evening at her restaurant suddenly turned into a painful experience for Chun Mee owner Helen Chun Sept. 7, as she suffered first and second degree burns over her face when oil ignited in a cooking mishap.

Helen, along with her husband, John, were forced to close their restaurant for 10 days while Helen recovered from the burns, and the restaurant was cleaned.

As Helen was preparing for her evening business, she was in the process of heating some oil. She said she was attempting to heat it at too high of a temperature, and it got away from her.

“Like a monkey who fell down from the tree, I made a mistake,” she recalled a week later with a smile.

Chun said there is a fire extinguisher near where she was standing, but that she was unable to get to it, and instead, pulled the restaurant’s automatic sprinkler system, which doused the area with a chemical spray and extinguished the fire.

At first, she said she didn’t realize she had been burned. Along with employees, family, and friends, she worked to clean the restaurant and prepared to open that night.

“I was shocked at what happened,” John said after he had arrived at the restaurant.

Helen was taken to Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia to have her face looked at the night it happened, and was recommended to see a burn specialist at Hennepin County Medical Center the following day.

In their 21-year history in Delano, this is the second time they had to deal with the repercussions of fire. In 2002, a larger fire shut them down for almost an entire year.

“It was small this time compared to 2002,” Helen said. “At that time, we had no instant system. Now, we have an upgraded system.”

She said she and John are thinking about retiring from the restaurant business, and said they hope to find someone interested in taking over the business, and continuing the tradition of Chun Mee.

“Hopefully everybody enjoys Chun Mee, and keeps coming,” Helen said.

Finding someone to carry the torch doesn’t seem too likely to happen within the Chun family itself, as daughter Marsha, 28, is studying fashion design in New York, and son Kevin, 27, lives in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he has followed in his father’s footsteps and designs automobiles for Toyota.

John Chun was an automobile engineer, and the designer of several sports cars when he worked for Shelby Cobra in the late 1960s. He then worked for Chrysler, but was laid off. He accepted a job offer from Tonka Toys, and relocated to Mound, where he has been ever since.

At Chun Mee, John and Helen have enjoyed a lot of steady customers over the years, including regular orders from Randy’s Sanitation and many others from the Delano community and surrounding area.

Helen said she believes in “quality before quantity,” and wants to do the right things to help people eat healthy.

As for the Chuns and their future, they have become involved with Amway, which is a company that is a direct seller, and has more than 3 million independent business owners throughout the world.

Chun Mee is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays from 4 to 9:30 p.m., and closed Mondays. For more information, call (763) 972-2808.

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