Chef Daniel Capra
Photography by Josh Gruetzmacher | Words Chandara K. Phanachone
As the Executive Chef of Paula LeDuc Fine Catering in the San Francisco Bay area, Capra is leading the charge to elevate the entire wedding dining experience – one dish at a time.
Along the shorelines of Virginia’s tributaries that lead to the Chesapeake Bay, there exist waterways home to an expansive ecosystem of life teeming with the freshest seafood imaginable. As a young boy, Capra remembers always being surrounded by good food – a luxury he admittedly took for granted. “I grew up in the southern part of Virginia. Sweet potatoes were in everything, not to mention collard greens and Smithfield ham. Being so close to the Chesapeake Bay, I became hooked on blue crabs, crab soup, and fried clams. I would go fishing with my dad and we would catch mostly bluefish, spot fish, and flounder. I used to dream about fried spot [fish] – I haven’t had that in 30 years! ” recounts Capra, as he nostalgically thinks back to his childhood in which nearly every meal was accompanied with a version of the day’s catch. Given the artistry involved in the plating of a dish, it comes as no surprise that Capra has always immersed himself in the arts; he attended the prestigious Governor’s Magnet School for the Arts, a hub for innovation and creativity, where the young Capra studied Visual Arts and became a musician. By the time he turned 19 years of age, he set out to New Orleans, where he gained a firsthand understanding into the culinary world of restaurant chefs. His first stint bussing tables at a high-end restaurant quickly made him realize that the only way to actually “study” the fine dining scene was to go out to eat the food himself. He did that, albeit a bit more than he had originally intended. “After I had been [at the restaurant] for about a month, the chef got fired, the third one in three months. The new chef, who was about a year older than myself, was quickly overwhelmed, so I volunteered to move into the kitchen. From there, I kept my eyes open and wrote everything down,” notes Capra. Capra continued to refine his art by working under the tutelage of culinary giants such as New Orleans’ very own chefs Gerard Maras and Susan Spicer, before relocating to Washington, D.C. to work at chef Greg Hill’s former restaurant, New Heights. There, he witnessed the tireless work ethic characteristic of so many great chefs.
“When I am writing a menu, I begin with the fruits and vegetables. I plan each course around those ingredients and build from there by adding complementary flavors and textures,” says Capra.
Read more in Issue 03