Rising Star Chef PJ Calapa - Biography

April 2013

Having grown up in the Mexican border town of Brownsville, Texas, PJ Calapa was exposed to a range of cuisines and flavors at an early age. As a child, he began working in his grandmother’s kitchen and later moved to his grandfather’s wholesale fish business. Calapa continued to nurture his culinary passion during his undergraduate studies at Texas A&M University, where he worked on the hot line at Christopher’s World Grille.

After graduation, Calapa moved to New York and enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, where his passion and tireless efforts catapulted him to the top of his class. Since then, he has striven for excellence, sharpening his culinary skills and incorporating early food memories with his own gastronomic intuition.

As a CIA graduate, Calapa worked at Bouley in Tribeca, Eleven Madison Park, and Nobu 57, where he started as a line cook and quickly rose through the ranks to become executive sous chef. It was at Nobu 57 that Calapa learned about the delicate art of Japanese cuisine, which still informs and adds new zest to his vision of fine dining. In 2010, Calapa joined Chef Michael White’s Altamarea Group and to help launch Ai Fiori. His diverse background and ability to reinvent elegant cuisine has earned Ai Fiori three stars from The New York Times and one Michelin star. In 2013, Calapa was named 2013 StarChefs.com Rising Star Chef.