Charlotte Capan: Private cooking lessons made to order

Charlotte Capan had already owned a surf shop in Hawaii and managed wholesale sales for Calvin Klein in New York City before she ended up in San Francisco —she says “randomly” — because her then-boyfriend lived here.

The relationship ended, but Capan fell in love with The City instead. Now, she calls it home.

“I love it,” Capan said. “I hope I never leave it. The best restaurants in the world are here.”

Capan is now owner of Le Culinaire Concierge, the San Francisco company she founded in 2004 that provides private cooking lessons, mainly to other businesses as part of team-building exercises and workshops. The company’s 40 trained chefs travel to corporate conference rooms all over the Bay Area, as well as off-site locations, bringing ovens, wine and any implements needed to turn workspaces into kitchens.

“The biggest part of our business is the custom feeling,” Capan said. “We do anything the client is looking for in terms of food. It’s a very consultative business.”

Capan has also developed strategic partnerships and harvested the work of corporate consultants.

In a recent event foreBay, Capan’s team joined with psychological-typing firm Myers-Briggs to generate personality assessments of the eBay staff before the session. Myers-Briggs helped her pair executives at opposite ends of the personality spectrum — extroverts with introverts, for instance. The odd couples performed the cooking tasks together and after the meal said they were surprised at their productivity.

“This is sort of just an added tool to help businesses grow together,” Capan said. “It can be just a fun thing for the company to do or it can really help the teams.”

Capan’s specialty is Italian food, her family’s background. She travels to Italy six times a year to search out fresh ingredients and local recipes. But her cooking instruction features foods from all parts of the world.

Her next project will be the opening of a San Francisco branch of a market in Florence called Conti. Capan, who has worked closely with the Florentine family that owns the market and gained permission to bring their brand stateside, plans to put a kitchen in the store and offer Italian food and wine events.

Trained in the fashion world, Capan’s marketing experience with Calvin Klein got her a job in the technology sector when she came to San Francisco. She worked for AskJeeves.com and a smaller startup, then when the tech boom crashed she went to Spain in search of herself and came back ready to cook.

She started at the California Culinary Academy, working again in marketing. Capan knew she didn’t want to be a chef in a restaurant, and said she sought operational experience to figure out business models involving cooking.

Charlotte Capan

New project: Italian food store in San Francisco

Last project: Setting up strategic partnerships

Number of e-mails per day: 150

Number of voicemails per day: 50

Essential Web site: Google

Best perk: “I get to do what I love”

Gadgets: iPod or wine opener

Education: Fashion Merchandising (undergrad), Brooks College. Business (graduate), Long Beach State

Last conference: Slow Food Convention, Fort Mason

First job: Waitress in pizza restaurant

Original aspiration: cooking

Career objective: Introduce people who don’t cook to the art of it

Hometown: Anoka, Minn.

Sports/hobbies: Tennis, golf

Transportation: Audi

Favorite restaurant: Kokkari

Computer: Dell laptop

Vacation spot: Sardinia

Favorite clothier: Vera Wang

Role model: Grandmother

Reading: “Eat, Pray and Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert

Worst fear: Losing people close to me

Motivation: To help people who cannot help themselves

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