Celebrity chef Massimo Capra opens up about the loss of his oldest son

Several weeks ago, I found myself visiting the famous Capra’s Kitchen restaurant in Mississauga.

This bright and airy eatery is famed celebrity chef Massimo Capra’s dream: a restaurant reflecting his passion for solid, delicious Italian food — touched with that famous Capra flavour riff. You know him by his signature moustache but Massimo Capra is also well-known for his regular appearances on CityLine as well as Food Network shows like Restaurant Makeover and Chopped, not to mention his colourful Gourmet Escapes with Massimo Capra travel series produced by TFTV Inc.

He has a plethora of cookbooks, plus he’s kept busy with his restaurants in Niagara Falls (Massimo’s Italian in the Sheraton on the Falls Hotel), Boccone Trattoria at Toronto’s Pearson Airport and Soprafino at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar.

And Capra’s Kitchen, where dishes include traditional faves to a variety of pastas to Capra’s famous red beet risotto, where you’ll find the recipe written in large letters on the wall. Desserts are a handful of amazing — and includes his famous chocolate charcuterie board.

I had been wanting to visit Capra’s Kitchen for a long time, but my first visit was for a poignant event – a celebration of life for Capra’s oldest son, Andrew, who passed away this past June from an accident while living in Prague. The place was jam-packed with family and friends, and well-known industry faces, all gathered to offer support and love to Massimo, his wife Rosa and their younger son, Daniel.

Chef Massimo Capra and his son, Andrew

Years ago, when Capra was promoting his first cookbook, Massimo’s Italian Kitchen, he proudly told me Andrew had photographed the book cover with the very first camera he had been given. “Look at this photo!” he said at the time, of a son who was barely in his teens when he swung the lens towards his dad and told him not to move as he took the shot.

Andrew Capra was a force to be reckoned with. Living in Prague for a few years, he was an accomplished photographer, writer and musician, having written in a variety of publications stories of his adventures.

He was famous for his generous spirit and amazing creativity. He was fondly remembered by the faculty members of OCAD University — where he was the 2015 Integrated Media alumnus — as a “lovely and lively person,” an extraordinary talent who was also known for his kindness. An accomplished storyteller and filmmaker, he lived a somewhat solitary life from which brilliant works came forth. He looked the role — dark, brooding eyes, a mane of hair, statement hats and the most brilliant of smiles.

“His passing has left a devastating hole in our family, one that will never been filled,” wrote Massimo on a Facebook post. “Andrew was an exceptional person who was kind, and brilliant. He inspired countless people with his generous spirit and amazing creativity.”

“Andrew was an exceptional person who was kind, and brilliant. He inspired countless people with his generous spirit and amazing creativity.”

In fact, Andrew’s presence was everywhere at the restaurant that day — from his stories and articles that guests could read to the clothes he wore, the musical instruments he played. There were bowls of his favourite chocolate — Maltesers — everywhere, and a moving film of his life played on the TV screen over the bar.

Rosa Capra, with Andrew

One could see it took a tremendous amount of courage for the Capra family to greet each guest with hugs, tears and smiles as each had an Andrew anecdote to share. Rosa in particular was a sorrowful yet courageous figure as she stood to greet and hug and thank every single person who had come out.

Later, Massimo explained how it’s “the people who are helping me – us – cope,” keeping busy with his company, his restaurants, a new cookbook, his travel show, to help stave off the anguish of his loss.

The Capras have also found courage in “all the stuff” that Andrew left behind – his books, his scribbles, stories he was working on.

An utterly profound legacy.

“There’s a pile that we need to go through and it’s great to know that he left such a big legacy…and that it’s helping me to heal,” said Massimo. In fact, it’s Andrew who is helping his family mend — through the stories he’s left, his artwork and the various quotes the young man scribbled down that the family keeps turning up.

“It’s been a terrible year for me,” admits Capra. “I lost my brother in March, the brother I was connected to constantly and shortly after that, my son. We lost Andrew three days before his 30th birthday.”

Capra says as a parent, the last thing you would think of is losing your child: “Emotionally, I’m completely empty. I lost my most valued confident. Andrew was both a mama’s boy and a father’s son. My son, Daniel — two years younger than Andrew — is more like me.”

And, even though Andrew lived in Prague, “we were constantly in touch through Skype.”

Capra says the family is comforted by the outpouring of love and support from their family and friends and even complete strangers. But, ultimately “it’s Andrew, through his writings and his pictures that is helping us heal.”

For those interested, a bursary in Andrew’s name for the development of an OCAD University Scholarship to help support students in their pursuit of photography can be found at https://bit.ly/2NYbRwT.

For more information on Chef Massimo Capra, see massimocapra.com.

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Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies