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Born in Southern California, celebrated chef and personality Raphael Lunetta is recognized as one Los Angeles’ most respected chefs. Lunetta grew up in a bicultural and bilingual family where cooking played an integral role in family life. Every summer, his family spent time in the South of France at his aunt’s 18th Century farmhouse where they enjoyed large family dinners cooked over open fires with fish caught fresh from the ocean and vegetables picked from their garden. This setting began Raphael’s love for light, simple French cooking.
Growing up by the beach, Lunetta has always been an avid surfer and a food lover. He spent a year on the Association of Surfing Professionals tour traveling the world. In between riding the waves, he would spend any free time he had in kitchens immersing himself and learning about local cuisines. He has earned the title “the surfing chef” as he frequents Southern California beaches riding the waves and continuing his commitment to the Southern California coastline.
In 1986, Lunetta moved to Europe to broaden his knowledge in the restaurant industry. He worked in Paris at Cafe Pacifico, La Perla and Restaurant La Posté. After two years working in France, Lunetta returned home to Santa Monica to work in the kitchen at the just-opened Broadway Deli. From 1990 through 1996, he worked his way through some of the city’s top kitchens including the esteemed Patina, Capri in Venice and Jackson’s in Beverly Hills.
The culmination was opening his own restaurant, JiRaffe, in Santa Monica in 1997, which became a pillar of the restaurant community serving rustic American and French fare for close to 20 years. Lunetta became one of the city’s most respected chefs and was honored in 1997 as one of the country’s “Best New Chefs” by Food and Wine Magazine and received the “Fine Dining Award” from Nation’s Restaurant News. Throughout his career, Lunetta participated in multiple national television shows including “Knife Fight,” “My Country My Kitchen,” “Top Chef,” and “Beat Bobby Flay” featuring his skills as a chef and his understanding of using food as a way to bring people together. He has traveled the globe as a guest chef at many resorts, on cruises and for countless culinary events, often combining his expertise in the kitchen with his love of surfing the waves.
In 2017, Lunetta partnered with hospitality veterans Daniel Weinstock and Mike Garrett of Divide + Conquer, Inc. (and owners of Culver City restaurant Maple Block Meat Co.) to open Lunetta and Lunetta All Day in Santa Monica. At these restaurants, Lunetta continues to craft what he is best known for: creating a warm, comfortable setting where simple, clean flavors and local ingredients take center stage. When asked to describe his food, Chef Raphael said … “it is fresh, locally sourced produce, meats and seafood, then prepared with ‘love’ from our kitchen, combined with robust portions using many products from local suppliers and the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. ”