Paul Mladenka has been around food preparation since he was tall enough to stand at the kitchen counter with his mom. “Being in the kitchen has really been second nature to me my whole life,” he says. Without culinary or business degrees, Mladenka and his brother Michael have created something of a culinary destination in Port Allen with their barbecue and creole-style fare at Cou-yon’s. Since launching Cou-yon’s in 2009 when they were in their early 20s, the Shreveport natives have not only built a beloved restaurant but added a food truck and expanded into a high-volume catering business that is largely fueled by the West Baton Rouge Parish industrial firms.
“Port Allen was an untapped market for all of these industrial workers,” Paul explains. “The growth in Port Allen has been tremendous. I had a strong feeling that would be the case, and it’s still growing and fueling our business.” Consistent quality—of both their food and customer service—and a constant eye on increased efficiency have been the keys to Cou-yon’s continued success, Paul says. The original staff of 10 employees has grown to more than 50 who serve anywhere from 700 to 1,000 people a day in the restaurant alone. The Mladenkas also pride themselves on being highly rated on review sites such as Yelp and
TripAdvisor, reading and responding to nearly every customer’s comment.
BBQ AND BEYOND
As Cou-yon’s prepares to celebrate 10 years in business this July, Paul feels the business is hitting its stride. In 2018 alone, the company completed a new prep kitchen that has significantly expanded its catering abilities, as well as added two additional catering vehicles. Cou-yon’s completed its largest catering order ever—some 4,000 plates—early last year, and also landed an LSU sponsorship deal. Now the Mladenkas are focused on growing their retail business by getting their barbecue sauces and dry rubs into grocery stores as they build an online store. The brothers hope to start selling franchises next year and open a second Baton Rouge area location in the next few years.