From Cafeteria Busser to Top Chef – Pechanga Culinary Pro Takes Helm as Assistant Executive Chef

Pechanga Resort Casino is happy to announce the promotion of Ronnel Capacia to the position of Assistant Executive Chef. Ronnel developed an affinity toward cooking as a child. When he took his first job at Pechanga Resort Casino in 2004 as an employee cafeteria busser, he had no idea his aspirations would lead him to a top spot in the culinary division at one of the country’s largest resort/casinos. Capacia now directs a team of more than 150 as Pechanga’s Assistant Executive Chef.

“This is a dream come true,” says Capacia. “I’ve worked really hard to get to this position and believe me, I have no intention of slowing down now. It’s exciting and humbling my team believes in me to help lead Pechanga’s food and beverage division and to give our guests the best dining experience with the freshest ingredients.”

Assistant Executive Chef of Pechanga Resort Casino, Ronnel Capacia.

Born and raised in Guam, Capacia and his family moved to the United States in 2001 so he and his brothers could experience better education and career opportunities. His family settled in the Murrieta and San Diego, locales with a sizably larger population than Guam’s 170,534 people. Even as a child, his family suspected Ronnel would get involved in the culinary arts later in life. Capacia recounts that before big family gatherings, he would be the one inside the kitchen helping his mom prepare food for the parties while his brothers played outside. While attending high school, first in Guam and his final two years in Murrieta, he worked in a variety of restaurants including sushi, a mom and pop Chinese restaurant and for corporate chain eateries.

When it came time to enroll in college, he veered away from the kitchen, opting to follow a few other family members into the nursing profession, but also in search of new experiences. He completed three semesters of nursing school until he decided his true passion stemmed back to when he was a boy with his mother in the kitchen. He applied for a job at Pechanga Resort Casino in 2004 and to get his foot in the door, took a job as a food busser in the employee cafeteria. A year later, he enrolled in the San Diego Culinary Art Institute, while continuing to work full time at the resort, more than an hour away. His hard work and dedication shined and he was quickly promoted several times within Pechanga’s food and beverage department, first to Paisano’s Italian, later to the AAA Four Diamond Great Oak Steakhouse as a line cook, and then to sous chef position at the award-winning steakhouse. He was promoted to the head chef position at Kelsey’s restaurant in 2014 and continued his upward march toward culinary department leadership. He says he’s excited to help further refine and enhance Pechanga’s food offerings alongside his staff. He’s also big on being a coach to the cooks and culinary staff just starting out, just like experienced at Pechanga many years ago.

Capacia met his wife, a fellow chef, at Pechanga. When not in the kitchen, spends time with his wife and two daughters.