PJ Calapa was born just a few miles from the Mexican border in the town of Brownsville, Texas, and was exposed to diverse cuisines at a young age. Food played a vital role in PJ's early life, whether he was in the kitchen with his grandmother, helping out at his aunt's gourmet grocery store, or spending time at the fish house where his grandfather ran a wholesale business. PJ attended Texas A&M University, where he started working at Christopher's World Grille. It was here that he got his first taste of working behind a hot line and fell in love with kitchen life. He decided then that it was New York or bust so he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. PJ worked effortlessly to take his cooking skills to the next level and ultimately graduated at the top of his class. After the CIA, PJ worked first at the four star Bouley in TriBeCa, and then at Eleven Madison Park under Chef Kerry Heffernan. Following that, PJ assisted in opening Nobu 57 which subsequently received three Stars from Frank Bruni of The New York Times. He started as lead line cook and quickly rose through the ranks to become Executive Sous Chef as he learned the delicate art of Japanese cuisine, picking up techniques and flavors that still influence his cooking style. In 2010, PJ met Chef Michael White and joined the team that opened Ai Fiori, helping the restaurant to earn three stars from The New York Times and one Michelin star. Thanks to his diverse background, PJ's dishes continue to re-imagine fine dining in New York City. PJ was recently promoted to Executive Chef covering both Ai Fiori and Costata properties for the Altamarea Group. He has brought together an impressive team of chefs underneath him.
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