He is well known and a local favorite in his hometown of Santa Monica. He is respected and known in the restaurant community of the city as well as on the beaches as he has been active in kitchens throughout greater LA and surfed locally and around the world. He has been a chef for many years and an active surfer since he was in grade school. He is noted chef and personality Raphael Lunetta, owner of JiRaffe restaurant. Chef Raphael celebrated the 15th anniversary of JiRaffe last spring and the restaurant remains one of the most favorite places to dine in Santa Monica. The food is noted for its simplicity, clarity of flavors and use of local ingredients, with many sourced at the very abundant local Farmer’s Market.
JiRaffe offers a warm, unpretentious ambiance that keeps the spotlight on its food. Chef Raphael works daily to keep the food as he describes it …’with fresh, locally sourced produce, meats and seafood, and then all prepared with care from the kitchen and combined with robust portions. “We use the same quality of products and care in preparation in the JiRaffe kitchen as I do for my own family at home.”
Food & Wine Magazine honored Raphael in 1997 at one of the “Ten Top New Chefs”. In 2009 he received the coveted “Fine Dining Award” from Nation’s Restaurant News,” and JiRaffe continues to score high ratings each year in the annual ZAGAT GUIDE for its food, service and décor. Chef Raphael can still be found working in the kitchen with his long-time kitchen crew, as well as connecting with guests nightly in the dining room, making all feel comfortable and at home when eating at JiRaffe. Raphael also co-owns Lemon Moon in West Los Angeles with business partner and long-time friend Chef Josiah Citrin.
In addition to his talents in the kitchen, Raphael is known for his second passion … surfing. 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. He represented the State of California to Australian media members as the “surfing chef,” was a guest judge on BRAVO-TV’s popular “Top Chef” when the show hit Southern California beaches, and has and continues to travel the globe as a guest chef at the many resorts, cruises and for culinary events. 2011 found him as guest chef with Crystal Cruises (to Alaska) and in Mexico at the famed Rancho La Puerta where patrons were treated to demonstration and education on cooking, eating healthy and finding balance in life.
Born in Southern California, Raphael grew up in a family where preparing and eating good homemade food was ingrained at a young age. His family visited his aunt’s 18th Century farmhouse retreat during summers in the south of France. There they would enjoy large family-style dinners, often cooked over open fires made with grapevines, eating calamari and shellfish right from the Mediterranean Sea. Roasting ripe vegetables from this fertile region initiated Raphael in his love for fresh and locally grown produce and his love for light, simple French cooking and of food.
He is active in his community, with his family and a great local supporter of the business community of Santa Monica. Chef Raphael is married to television news personality Gabriela Teissier de Lunetta and they have two sons, Etienne and Enzo.