Tony Pineda walked in the door at Meals on Wheels in Tampa before the local roosters hit the snooze button.

“Five a.m.,” he said.

The chef has to beat the sunrise to get all of the work done. Meals on Wheels in Tampa serves 1,500 meals per day in Tampa alone and the workload amps up when Thanksgiving week rolls around.

“We have one hour to get 700 meals done,” said kitchen worker Diane Zalansky. “We’re busy.”

Pineda keeps the kitchen afloat. He arrived in Tampa a decade ago after a successful 20-year run with a catering company in New York City. Jan. 2 will mark 11 years in Florida and his new role has provided him with a new passion.

“When you have heart, it’s perfect,” he said. “Like I told my executive director, even if I retire, I’ll still be right here doing the same thing as a volunteer. I mean, I love the mission.”

His co-workers agree.

“Chef Tony He speaks from the heart. He cooks from the heart,” said Lauren Vance, Meals on Wheels director of communications and donor relations. "He always makes you feel loved and make you feel special.”

Meals on Wheels celebrated serving Tampa for 40 years on March 17, 2015.