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Flavors Moment: Juliano’s Restaurant - Carl Kurokawa

Executive Chef Carl Kurokawa takes a break after dinner service at Juliano’s Restaurant that closed in December of 2023.
Stella Fong
Executive Chef Carl Kurokawa takes a break after dinner service at Juliano’s Restaurant that closed in December of 2023.

Kay Erickson: As 2023 comes to an end so will a European-Asian inspired restaurant that for nearly 40 year brought diners to a stable house next to a Castle. Stella Fong, host of YPR’s Flavors Under the Big Sky, brings us the history of Juliano’s Restaurant and Chef Carl Kurokawa.

Stella Fong: In 1995 Executive Chef Carl Kurokawa along with Tim Keating and Dave McCurdy opened Juliano’s Restaurant in the hospital corridor. So how did this European and Asian inspired restaurant come to be?

Chef Carl Kurokawa: Tim Keating was waiting tables at DeVerniero’s Restaurant. I never knew Dave McCurdy from nobody. They knew each other and Tim took a job with KTVQ and Dave worked upstairs at the SJL so they chatted and I was looking for an out and Tim wanted an in. I found this place so Juliano’s restaurant, talked to Mr. Keating, Mr. Keating talked to Mr. McCurdy, and we all settled to purchasing the place and doing a restaurant.

Stella Fong: The partners decided to keep the name of the restaurant that preceded them. However, Kurokawa did want to follow the trend of the time where restaurants held one name:

Chef Carl Kurokawa: I was actually looking at naming it Yasu. Yasu was my dad’s name and my son’s middle name and Yasayuki is my dad’s name and Yasu is my son’s name and it’s a Japanese name but also Yasu is a Greek greeting. Something like that would show an international flair but that was a pipe dream for me because it never happened.

Stella Fong: Over the years, Kurokawa always offered dishes with global combinations that were unique.

Chef Carl Kurokawa: It all worked with the European thing that I knew. Phone calls to my mother to get the Asian influence in there and we just put it all together and worked it through.

Stella Fong: Kurokawa’s want to create made for a menu that changed often.

Chef Carl Kurokawa: I got to do the research and stuff and I think of the flavors that will go together well and put my own little twist on that. My own spin on it, my Asian background and European influence that growing up over here kind of thing.

Stella Fong: Kurokawa always held a voice for embracing and using local ingredients.

Chef Carl Kurokawa: Trying to sell Montana I was working with the rest of the chefs trying to make them understand about our natural resources.

Stella Fong: Over the years, not only had Juliano’s Restaurant developed loyal diners but …

Chef Carl Kurokawa: Vicki’s been with us for 37 years from three previous restaurants over the years with the Devenieros restaurant with three different Devenieros restaurants. Then we bought this place and she came over.

Stella Fong: Vicki Okken will be looking for a new job as a server. For Chef Seth Carlson who has been Kurokawa’s right hand chef and dedicated reservation taker.

Chef Carl Kurokawa: Well, he’s a talented individual so we’ll see what happens when we shut down over here. He hasn’t decided what he’s going to do yet. He says “I want to make sure I come to the end before a new project over here so he’s not saying, or I don’t know if he has anything going on right now but I will work with him. He’s very talented. He can work any place in the city if he wanted to.

Stella Fong: We wish Chef Carl Kurokawa well as he surfs into the sunset. We are grateful for all the years he flavored our community. This is Stella Fong for YPRadio news.

Stella Fong shares her personal love of food and wine through her cooking classes and wine seminars as well as through her contributions to Yellowstone Valley Woman, and Last Best News and The Last Best Plates blogs. Her first book, Historic Restaurants of Billings hit the shelves in November of 2015 with Billings Food available in the summer of 2016. After receiving her Certified Wine Professional certification from the Culinary Institute of America with the assistance of a Robert Parker Scholarship for continuing studies, she has taught the Wine Studies programs for Montana State University Billings Wine and Food Festival since 2008. She has instructed on the West Coast for cooking schools such as Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, Macy’s Cellars, and Gelsons, and in Billings, at the Billings Depot, Copper Colander, Wellness Center, the YMCA and the YWCA. Locally she has collaborated with Raghavan Iyer and Christy Rost in teaching classes.