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STREETSEEN  | Jamond Bullock

Photo by Steve Roberts

Jamond Bullock: Live Painter and Muralist

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

Jamond Bullock said he recognized his artistic leanings early in life. Bullock went to Craigmont and took art lessons from grades 7 to 12.

“Art and music run on both sides of my family,” explained Bullock. “My maternal grandfather was a commercial artist for a St. Louis newspaper and my older brother, John, is an artist and film maker. My dad is a musician and my mother was ‘artsy.’  My parents were open to me and my brother being creative people, too.”

Bullock continued, “I was pretty good in academic subjects, but art came naturally to me and was something that I consistently enjoyed. I ended up earning an art scholarship to attend LeMoyne-Owen College and graduated in 2007 with a BFA in Fine Art. I was interested in being an art teacher, but at the time there was a hiring freeze taking place at Memphis City Schools.”

Bullock found another path to teaching art by volunteering at MIFA (Metropolitan Inner-Faith Association). 

“Because I held a show in downtown Memphis titled ‘The Kings of Memphis,’ featuring a series of portraits of B.B. King and Elvis, I ended up teaching kids how to draw Elvis. And in 2006, I painted live for a school fundraiser, held at the Cannon Center, called LOC Sunday.”

During that time Bullock saw a video of David Garibaldi, a speed painter in California. In conjunction with Elvis Week, Garibaldi was coming to Graceland — and Bullock decided that he wanted to meet this fellow artist. 

“Seeing him take painting to the next level was an incredible experience for me,” recalled Bullock. “I showed him one of my charcoals of B. B. King. David was very encouraging and I made friends with him on Facebook and we have kept in touch.”

Further positioning Bullock in the public’s eye, Darius “Phatmak” Clayton told Bullock about the open mic sets held at Starbuck’s at Winchester and Hacks Cross, and asked him to come paint portraits. After Bullock’s first session, where he painted a portrait of Marvin Gaye, the Starbuck’s manager invited Bullock to bring his paintings from his Kings of Memphis show to hang on the shop’s walls.

“From that moment, I was empowered to start using that space as a studio/gallery and began meeting clients there,” said Bullock. “I was also working at FedEx at night, so it was like having two jobs. During this time, I birthed a new style of painting that was very loose and colorful, but you could still see the influences of my early works.”

Bullock started making money off of his works at Starbuck’s and continued to grow his audience. He expanded to doing live paintings at the annual Staxtacular fundraising event. That exposure led to Bullock to having his work on display at the FedExForum. In time Bullock began receiving requests from various nonprofit organizations to be a featured live painter at their fundraising events. Public awareness continued to grow and in 2012 Bullock was awarded a project through the UrbanArt Commission. In 2013 his first project, a 30-foot mural, was installed in Orange Mound at the Bethel La Belle Community Center. Since then Bullock has achieved his goal of teaching art in area schools. But his career canvas has expanded greatly to include six murals for Teach for America, a mural residency in South Memphis, being the artist-in-residence at Caritas Village in Binghamton and being featured in Essence Magazine and in a Ford television commercial.

There’s more on the near horizon for this rising star. Channel 5 News is building a story on Bullock as an artist. Bluff City Weekend will feature him in a commercial about culture in the community. His mural at Ida B. Wells Academy is going to be spotlighted in the ESPN show, “True South.” And this summer Bullock will put a colorful spin on a major clean-up project in Frayser funded by a national award from the Mural Arts Philadelphia program about the arts and the environment, dealing with trash dumping. The future seems bright for this home-grown artist. 


STREETSEEN  |  Sorrasit “Alex” Sittranont

Photo by Steve Roberts

Sorrasit “Alex” Sittranont: Head Chef at Bhan Thai

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

Growing up in Bangkok, Thailand, Sorrasit “Alex” Sittranont was the youngest of six children. His father was a farmer and his mother was kept busy raising their family.

“I loved following my mother around in the kitchen,” recalled Alex. “And while she didn’t cook professionally, she always helped prepare food for special occasions, like weddings.”

As for his own career path, Alex initially set his sights on becoming an engineer. His formal education led him to being a construction engineer and he enjoyed a career of working on large projects and constructing buildings. But he also had an interest in being a chef.

“I worked on my culinary skills on a part-time basis,” said Alex. “Then in 1998, the Thai government suffered an economic set back. Subsequently, there was a slow down in construction and fewer jobs for engineers. That upped my interest in being a chef.”

One of Alex’s cousins gave him an introduction to Dan Reifenberg, who was a restaurateur in St. Louis. In 2000, after they had several conversations, Alex came to the United States to work for Reifenberg. Then a year later, Alex followed him to Memphis to be the chef at Sawaddii Thai Cuisine. 

It was at Sawaddii that Molly Smith, founder and owner of Bhan Thai, and Alex connected with one another. Molly had given a loan to Reifenberg and ended up taking over management of Sawaddii. When the restaurant’s owner passed away, Sawaddii was sold. But Molly and Alex had developed quite a following for their Thai cuisine, so they decided to take a chance and launch their own restaurant in Spring 2002.

“I found out about a location on Peabody from the guy I was renting my duplex from in Midtown,” said Molly. “I went back to our staff and told them the building was already built-out to be a restaurant, and if they were willing, we’d take them with us. All of our staff, 8 to 9 people, said, ‘Yes,’ and a few short months later we opened our doors as Bhan Thai, with Alex as our head chef.”

Chef Alex brought his authentic Thai recipes and cooking techniques to the elegant old house at 1324 Peabody Avenue. His culinary talents produced lunch and dinner entrees that have become the signatures dishes of Bhan Thai.

When asked what ingredients he favors, Chef Alex quickly named fresh herbs that are locally sourced, like Thai basil, lime leaves, lemongrass and mint. He also contracts to have ingredients imported from Thailand for other dishes, as well as beverages like his Thai Tea and Thai Coffee. He added that some of his favorite things to cook are Crispy Duck, Roasted Duck Curry and Yum Tuna. Chef Alex explained that the latter dish has a sauce derived from North Eastern Thailand over 2000 year ago, and is one he brought to America. 

Chef Alex continued, “In Thailand, the word ‘Yum’ means salad, and in America, it means ‘tasty’ — so ‘tasty salad.’ This dish includes mangoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, green and red onions, mint, and roasted red pepper sauce. The topping is presented like a salad, and draws so many comments from our diners.”

Chef Alex makes every sauce at Bhan Thai in-house. And while many people think of Thai as a hot and spicy cuisine, because all of the dishes are made to order, they can be prepared with less (or more) heat.

As Bhan Thai celebrates its 17th anniversary this month, the contributions of Chef Alex extend beyond the confines of the kitchen. His original artwork adorns the walls and his creativity stretches to the landscaping around the restaurant. 

“Chef Alex is what makes us so unique,” said Molly. “His specialty dishes are above and beyond, but it is the relationships he's made with our customers over the years that really sets us apart.”