JUNNAJET "JETT" HURAPAN
Born in Bangkok, Thailand in 1970, Hurapan and his family left Thailand in 1980 with his parents and three siblings to New York City. Hurapan spent most of his childhood and adult life in New York City. His introduction to the world of food and beverage, as a 14-year-old kitchen prep cook at an Upper West Side restaurant, came at the urging of his father, now a noted chef, James Beard recipient and restaurateur in his own right. Designed as a way to keep a watchful eye on his rambunctious son, the summer job soon transitioned into something more with the teenager eagerly taking on increasingly important roles. And as his father’s career blossomed, so did opportunities for Jett. Perhaps most pivotal to both men’s successes was an alignment with then fledgling BR Guest and famed restaurateur, Stephen Hanson, who remains a friend and mentor after two decades.
Before finishing high school in 1988 and entering culinary school, Jett got his first taste behind the stove at the runaway hit, Isabella’s, where his father was a chef. After graduation, he began his career in earnest with BR Guest, landing his first milestone position as sous chef at Isabella’s, the Upper West Side haunt of families and celebrities that was immortalized in numerous “Seinfeld” episodes. A Mediterranean influenced menu gave way to New American in 1995 when he was hired to the opening team of BR Guest’s Gramercy Park debut, Park Avalon. In 1998, Jett was on the move with BR Guest and back to the union square with the launch of Blue Water Grill, a chic jazz room, seafood and oyster bar.
After a career-changing run as executive chef of BR Guest’s West Side Ruby Foo’s concept, which generated a two star review in the New York Times and spurned a follow up location in Times Square, Jett’s father stepped in a second time, encouraging his son to get back to his Thai roots and discouraging his “fusion confusion.” In 2000, he took on the role of executive chef at Rain, where the older Hurapan was a partner. The three-year post helped to realign his cooking, earned several industry awards, led to a chance meeting with his wife and launched a second career as a race car driver with VW/Audi which ended in 2003 after a bad crash.
Following his recuperation, Jett was back behind the stove, serving as executive chef of Hue, a West Village restaurant and lounge, which also drew raves and a VIP clientele. He held that position until 2005 and then consulted on projects for the following year before joining SRO GROUP, where he worked at the Meatpacking District’s famed Buddakan in preparation for an executive chef role at Buddakan’s Atlantic City launch.
Jett was offered a consulting gig at Gigi's Asian Bistro and decided to stay back and become Executive chef for approximately 3 years. After leaving Gigi's in 2011, Hurapan partnered with Jiten & Amy Karnani to create a global street food and modern asian concept called BLU Restaurant | Lounge. Blu features a menu of global street food cuisine influenced by Hurapan’s Thai background and cross-cultural culinary career. His position continues a tradition started more than seven years ago; Hurapan’s wife, Jira, has worked side-by-side with him as pastry chef since their courtship began.
Jett and the Karnani's continue their journey together at Songkran Thai Kitchen. Chef Jett is going back to his roots and has created a menu that signifies who he is and where he is from. He is cooking the foods of his homeland in his restaurant for the first time and loving every moment of it. The menu represents what Jett likes to eat and a lot of the recipes are passed down from generation to generation, from both his grandmother and father, of traditional Bangkok cuisine using the freshest of ingredients.
Jira was born in Bangkok, Thailand in 1978. She was a typical, level-headed Thai girl raised in a middle class family. She attended a private high school and received a bachelor's degree Bangkok University in 2000.
After she graduated, she traveled to New York City to study English at Baruch College. Since she didn't have enough money to pay for the tuition fee, she started looking for a job to pay her bills. Her friend introduced her to Quake Restaurant in Union Square and that's how she met Chef Jett. He hired her as a dumpling maker and delivery girl. About six months later, Chef Jett left Quake and opened Rain in the Upper West Side with his father. Jira followed him there and worked as a line cook for a few years. Working in the kitchen and studying became very tough for Jira so she decided to quit school until she saved enough money. Jira and Chef Jett started a relationship outside of work and later got married.
Chef Jett opened Hue Restaurant in Greenwich Village and Jira was a line and pastry cook. He hired a consulting pastry chef to teach her how to make ice cream and desserts. Once Jira got the taste for baking, she just couldn't imagine doing anything else. She attended the certificate program, Master Class in Baking at the New School University in 2004 and completed the Pastry and Baking Arts diploma from the Institute of Culinary Education in 2005.
She completed her internship at NY's famous Sarabeth's Bakery in Chelsea Market and worked there for several months. Sarabeth taught her the most intricate details of pastry making and presentation. Jira was so grateful to have an opportunity to work with her. Sarabeth's amazing pastries have now made it to Oprahs' Favourite Things list.
After many years of working at the top restaurants in New York City, Pastry Chef Jira nad Chef Jett decided they needed a change in their lives. An opportunity to move to Houston and Open Gig's in the Galleria came up. They worked there for 3 years. Later they opened Blu Restaurant | Lounge in Sugar Land, in which they are partners. They have now added their new baby, Songkran Thai Kitchen to their portfolio as well. Jira continues to work alongside Chef Jett as Pastry Chef.
In her 14 years of cooking and baking, she finally has an opportunity to go back to her roots and create Thai desserts that she used to have at the restaurants and streets of Bangkok, Thailand. One dessert she keeps as her signature from New York City is the Molten Chocolate Cake because it's the first dessert that she learned and has perfected it over time with her years of experience.
Chef Jira uses fresh and unique ingredients and always strives to push the envelope to keep trying new and exotic combinations of ingredients and fruits.