Head chef at Trinity Café uses 30 years of restaurant experience to serve meals to underserved in Bay area

Chef Daniel Graves has worked in some of Chicago's best restaurants, but now, he's returned home to cook for the underserved, and he pours a lot of love into his cooking. 

"It's a passion of mine, something I'm truly passionate to do," said Graves. "I cook for my family every night. You would think after cooking. Who wants to go? I enjoy. I love cooking for my family."

Graves is now the head chef at Feeding Tampa Bay's Trinity Café. It's a free, full service restaurant for those in need of a healthy meal. 

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Graves said Trinity Café's model is to feed everyone who comes in with dignity and respect in a safe environment. 

"When you walk in, you're actually sat, a server approaches you, you're given three courses," Graves said. 

His journey to culinary excellence started when he was a child cooking with his grandmother. 

"When I was a child, my grandmother used to sit us down, and we used to watch Julia, because my grandma would cook along with her back in the day." 

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That experience started his love of cooking, so he went to P-Tech in Tampa and got a culinary degree. He then went to work in Chicago for about 30 years. 

"I work for some very, very large casinos, multiple facilities where I had seven or eight restaurants, so I really got to learn about volume," Graves said. "Cooking for 4 or 5,000 people is nothing to me, because I did it every single day."

They were skills that came in handy during the pandemic. 

"We cooked over 20,000 meals a week, and we have a new facility going up where we plan on doing upwards of 50 to 60,000 meals a week," Graves said. 

It's a challenge that Graves feels called to do.

"I feel convicted through my faith to do this and to give back," he said. "It's something that's really, really needed. It's an ongoing issue."