Trinity Cafe chef suffered heart attack while preparing community Chrismas Eve meal

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The smell of Christmas dinner was in the air while Chef Benito D’Azzo sat in his chair preparing a meal for many. 

The award-winning chef of Trinity Cafe, said he chopping onions when he dropped his knife. He said he experienced “a cramp in his forearm” then he lost function in his arm. His first reaction was to call 911.

"I'm glad I did because about an hour later and I was in surgery," he explained. "One of the problems was this is why most people don't survive is there really is no precursor. By the time I left here to the parking lot I was coughing up blood."

He said he never had heart issues, so any signs of something so significant catch his attention. 

The chef said his thoracic artery ruptured, which caused internal bleeding. He said on his way out the door to the hospital he was coughing up blood. 

One of the things that helped him survive was his attitude toward returning to work. He said everything that happens daily at Trinity Cafe is something he is very passionate about. The cafe serves hundreds of meals every day for the needy and is partnered with Feeding Tampa Bay.

"What we do every day was something that really motivated me to come back," he said. 

Just a week ago, the sounds of cheers filled the air as he walked through the doors.