Growing up in Brownsville, Texas, near the border of Mexico, 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. After moving to New York, Calapa enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America. After graduating, Calapa worked at high-profile restaurants including Bouley, Eleven Madison Park and Nobu Fifty Seven. It was at Nobu that Calapa learned the delicate art of Japanese cuisine, which still informs his vision for fine dining.
In 2010, Calapa helped launch Ai Fiori, which earned three stars from The New York Times, a Michelin star and a 2013 StarChefs Rising Star Chef Award. Calapa went on to serve as executive chef at Costata, Campagna and the Barn at the Bedford Post Inn.
In 2017, Calapa began working on two new projects. He opened his interpretation of an iconic New York tavern called The Spaniard in Manhattan. Calapa also opened Scampi in the Flatiron District, which offered patrons a taste of Southern Italy in an inviting, warm and lively setting.