If someone were to serve you your favorite meal, what would it be?
A plain plate of spaghetti with fresh pomodoro sauce. Also, I’m a big fan of ketchup.
Benito D’Azzo joined Trinity Cafe in June 2016 as its executive chef. Chef Ben is an accomplished leader in the kitchen with more than 30 years of experience in fine dining, private clubs, hotels and high volume catering venues. He comes to Trinity Cafe after six years of serving as executive chef of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, where he was responsible for coordinating kitchen operations for five different food and beverage outlets, special events catering, concessions and backstage craft services. Chef Ben brings to Trinity Cafe the same clear leadership and management style that enabled him to meet the high-volume demands of one of the few in-house venues producing more than 15,000 meals during a show run.
Chef Ben has a mentor mentality. He believes that chefs have the responsibility of passing on their knowledge as well as the culture and traditions intrinsic to the foods they cook. He developed a summer internship program to bring in high school culinary students into the kitchen to develop their talents as aspiring chefs. Four students completed the program during its first year, and all four have gone on to work in renowned restaurants and kitchens across the U.S. This is a point of pride for Chef Ben, who believes in developing the skills of each individual in the kitchen and has made it a personal mission to coach his employees into more advanced positions. In 2015, Chef Ben established Future Chefs of Tampa Bay, a career-focused nonprofit program that gives teenagers from low income families the cooking and life skills they need to succeed in culinary careers and beyond.
It was during one of Future Chefs of Tampa Bay’ service opportunities where they “took over the kitchen” at Trinity Cafe that Chef Ben experienced first-hand the impact serving a meal with dignity has on the community. He was instantly moved by Trinity Cafe’s mission. He understands that most people are one tragedy away from needing help. He knows that a warm, nutritious meal is a God-send to those who are hungry. That’s why Chef Ben is excited about working closely with volunteers, donors, and the community, increasing food donations and engaging local restaurants to provide meals for the more than 400 guests served daily at two Trinity Cafe locations.
“At Trinity Cafe, nobody is asking why you’re hungry. No one is asking why you’re homeless. The door is open, just come in and eat,” Chef Ben said.
Chef Ben lives in Clearwater with his wife Lisa and two daughters, Emily and Lauren. He coached competitive girls’ softball for 10 years and is an avid fan of blues music. One of his favorite sayings is: “Tutti a tavola” (Everyone to the table).