Rising Star Chef PJ Calapa of Ai Fiori - Biography

New York, NY

September 2015

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 in his grandfather’s wholesale fish business. Calapa continued to nurture his culinary passion during his undergraduate studies at Texas A&M University, when 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 in Hyde Park, where his passion and tireless efforts catapulted him to the top of his class. Since then, he has continued to pursue 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 his vision for fine dining. In 2010, Calapa joined Chef Michael White’s Altamarea Group to help launch Ai Fiori, which earned three stars from The New York Times, a Michelin star, and a 2013 StarChefs Rising Star Chef Award. Calapa continues to oversee Ai Fiori’s kitchen, along with Costata and the Campagna and the Barn at the Bedford Post Inn.