Chef Dragos Caprelian died on Aug. 19 at a hospital in Pompano Beach, Florida. He had recently returned home to Florida after feeling ill while at work on a yacht in the Bahamas. He was 44.
Known to his friends as The Dragon, Mr. Caprelian worked as a chef on a variety of yachts since 2003 including, most recently, M/Y Forward Unlimited, an 88-foot Sunseeker; M/Y Turquoise, a 180-foot Proteksan-Turquoise; M/Y Tail Lights, a 116-foot Azimut; and M/Y Days Like This, a 130-foot Westport. Previous yacht experience included M/Y Mustang Sally, a 164-foot Trinity; M/Y Atlantica, a 138-foot Christensen; M/Y Party Girl, a 146-foot Christensen; M/Y Tuscan Sun, a 148-foot Izar; M/Y Kingfisher 144-foot Feadship; and M/Y Carpe Diem, a 190-foot Trinity.
His wife, former Stew Ramona Cepurneac, said she took him to the emergency room when he arrived from the Bahamas, where he was treated and released on Aug. 17. He felt better the next day at home with his wife and 14-month-old son, Christian, but a fever returned the next day.
“We discovered his family has heart disease, and Monday we tried to reach a specialist,” Cepurneac said. “He had such low pulse when he entered the emergency they said he lost his pulse between the car and the ER. I like to believe he died in the car with his family, not alone. His last breath was with us.”
More than 20 years ago, the couple met and dated in their native town of Constanta, Romania, but eventually each headed on a different course. After two years service with the military police, Mr. Caprelian graduated as a chef and baker in 1997 in Romania, which lead him to work in restaurants and cruise ships, according to his resume.
“It’s a long love story,” Cepurneac said. “I much appreciated him but he knew he would go to America and I finished my studies at university.”
Eleven years later, the two reunited through Facebook.
“I knew he was my love,” Cepurneac said. “If I’m going to make a kid, I’m going to have one with him. If I get married, he’s the only one. He said, ‘I love you and there is nothing you can do’.”
The couple married last year.
“He was a wonderful chef, a real chef’s chef,” said friend and colleague Chef Neal Salisbury. “He liked to work with other people; he was the easiest to work with, and his work was solid.”
The two met when they participated in The Yacht Chef Fest in 2015 in Fort Lauderdale.
“He was the most genuine,” Salisbury said of Mr. Caprelian’s trademark facial hair, motorcycle garb, and boots. “I would host a fancy, fancy party and he showed up in leathers like the cover of a biker magazine.”
He always had a kind word and people fell in love with him, Salisbury said. “He had way, way positive energy. The guy was just cool.”
“He was my best friend; he was everybody’s best friend,” said Capt. Brad Helton of M/Y Bella Lisa about Mr. Caprelian.
Since meeting about 10 years ago and learning both had yachting, barbecuing and motorcycle riding in common, Capt. Helton and his wife, Monica, “have been riding together ever since, and we took him to Daytona Bike Week for the first time.”
Capt. Helton said he will miss his friend’s passion for life.
“He could mix in with yacht crew, a motorcycle gang, or a hippie crowd and go from Bike Week to a six-course meal on a 200-foot yacht serving The Rolling Stones meals,” he said. “This man had a diverse life. He was the definition of diversity.”
Friends have organized a GoFundMe page for his son.
A funeral is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 25, at 4:30 p.m. at St. Nicholas Melkite Greek Catholic Church, 5715 Lake Ida Road in Delray Beach (33484). Ramona Caprelian requested that guests dress like “you are going to meet your friend” and the announcement states: dress brightly and lightly, expressing your true self. No need to wear black. Think of The Dragon and shine your colors.”
Afterward is a gathering at The Funky Biscuit, 303 S.E. Mizner Blvd. in Boca Raton (33432) at 6 p.m.
Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comments welcome below. If you would like to add stories and photos to this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
See a previous story including Chef Caprelian here.