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Juliano’s will close in December and the chef at Billings is retiring



Billings, Montana – After 29 years, Juliano’s Restaurant in Billings will close due to the retirement of its chef, Carl Kurokawa.

Customers credit Kurokawa’s inventiveness and the cozy, family-friendly environment for its success.

On Wednesday, the chefs cooked a special lamb feast that featured lamb in every dish.

Kurokawa has been creating art of that kind for fifty years, of which twenty-nine were spent at Juliano’s.

“It gets in the blood,” Kurokawa said. “I was always a restaurant rat and I’ve always been in the kitchen since I was washing dishes when I was 16 over there. Got out in a pineapple fields and decided that wasn’t my bag.”

After facing several obstacles, Kurokawa traveled to Billings to meet his wife. He was born and raised in Hawaii.

“I had no intention of staying in Montana, but that was like 43 years ago,” he said.

In 1995, he bought Juliano’s with business partners Dave McCurdy and Tim Keating.

“Juliano’s means an opportunity to give Carl an opportunity to create,” Keating said. “That was his dream.”

They also retained the name from the former proprietors.

“The original Juliano’s was they wanted to have kind of a European flavor to that,” Kurokawa said. “So it went from Julie Ann, was his wife and they made it Juliano’s. I wanted to change the name but we had some difference of opinion when we first bought the place so we left it. But my wife’s name happened to be Julie Ann also. So it all kind of works out.”

Kurokawa claims that although it was difficult at first, he attacked the new venture with assurance.

“I went public and said you know, Billings, Montana deserves me,” Kurokawa said. “They just don’t know it yet. With that attitude, I just kept moving.”

Indeed, Billings got to know Carl.

He used to appear on Montana This Morning’s “Cooking With Carl” and “Q2 Cuisine” segments for a number of years.

Clients value his originality and good humor.

“He’s a character, but not in a weird sense,” said Ed Hahn.

“One my favorite places to go to lunch with my women friends,” said Pam Hahn. “And all of us are going to miss that a lot.”

Kurokawa purchased the lamb from the Lehfeldt ranch in Lavina, which is why one party came to enjoy the meal of lamb.

“Just can’t be a better spot or a better family to deal with,” said Erik Lehfeldt.

A few employees have been there from the start of the restaurant.

“Guys at work here, it’s all fun,” said Rick Finch, who works as a prep cook and dishwasher.

Keating gives tribute to Chef Carl and the restaurant staff, some of whom have been there since the beginning.

“Juliano’s wouldn’t be there without Carl’s passion for putting flavors together,” Keating said. “Beyond my expectations. Great run. Great to go out on top.”

“I’m sprinting to the finish,” Kurokawa said.

He will continue to do so until December 23.

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