Tucked away in Orlando’s trendy Milk District is Se7en Bites, a restaurant that has drawn rave reviews from food critics and loyal customers. Co-owner and Chef Trina Gregory has created an irresistible menu of sweet and savory signature dishes to satisfy any taste buds.
At 52, Trina is not only a hit in her hometown, she’s gained national attention (and customers) after being named Champion of Flavortown in celebrity Chef Guy Fieri’s Food Network show, “Guy’s Grocery Game,” and appearing twice in “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
While Chef Trina excels at creating crowd-pleasers, such as her Vanilla Bean Bourbon Bacon Nighttime Sky Pie and Chicken Pot Pie, the real ingredient that drives her personal and business success is love.
You can see it on the sign in the dining room: “LOVE MORE.”
You can hear it as Trina talks in her honey tone: “I’ve loved to bake since my Grammie first introduced me to baking.”
You can read it in her customer’s effusive reviews: “Love this place!”
It’s also evident in her priorities. The vivacious chef, with perfectly-styled red hair and flawless makeup, is known throughout the community forgiving back, whether it’s supporting her son’s school and local charities, mentoring up-and-coming culinary students, or advocating for women and the LBGTQ community.“
This was not my original plan,” Trina said, laughing easily.
Discovering passion and success
Born in Portsmouth, Virginia as a Navy baby, Trina grew up in Texas before moving to Florida, where she has spent the last 43 years. She majored in music with plans to be an opera singer. However, her passion for caretaking led her to a 25-year career as a full-service spa expert with licenses as an aesthetician, nail technician and massage therapist.
At mid-life, Trina felt life pulling her in a different direction. She wanted to be a mother. After her son was born, she decided to get gastric bypass surgery for her health. She has maintained her weight loss, following medical advice to limit herself to seven bites each meal — the inspiration for the name of her restaurant and the reason she strives to make each bite count.
Trina also wanted to change careers and follow her passion for baking, something she had enjoyed from childhood. She pursued degrees in culinary arts, baking and pastry management, and restaurant management. Reflecting on the opening of Se7en Bites in October 2013, Trina said, “I wondered if anyone would come.”
Word spread quickly about the breakfast, brunch and lunch delights that included re-imagined classics, such as Bread Pudding with Hollandaise and Pimento Grilled Cheese and Bacon Sandwich. Customers came in droves to the lime green Primrose Drive establishment with a large mural that invites the world to “Come on in & let us fill your pie hole.”
But it wasn’t just the delicious food that drew customers. Trina and VA created a welcome, family atmosphere for staff and patrons alike.“
If you haven’t been there, you’re in for many, many treats,” said former Orlando Sentinel editor and columnist Dean Johnson. “Trina is out there circulating, and her staff is crackerjack. The restaurant is one where you engage other customers in raving about the food.”
Another fan, Kevin Clark, posted on Facebook, “Felt like a regular this morning on our Friday bike ride for pancakes. Sweet girl up front knew our order when I said, ‘We’ll have the usual.’ Love this place!”
The restaurant has been named a favorite on numerous lists, including Conde Nast Traveler’s 21 Best Restaurants in Orlando.
Aging and risk-taking
Trina says that if she could talk to her younger self, she would say, “I know it’s a cliché, but not to sweat the small stuff. It really is small stuff. What is the most important thing to you? Who do you want to be? For me, it’s what I’m contributing to the community.”
It has also meant fearlessly being open to welcoming the unexpected, like recently being the grand marshal of the “Come Out with Pride” parade or when she received a phone call out of the blue from the Food Network.
“I thought it was a prank call,” she said.
A week later, a representative from the Food Network confirmed their interest. Soon after the call, a film crew showed up. The taping went so well that Trina was invited to do a second episode and to be a competitor in celebrity Chef Guy Fieri’s reality competition show.
The impact on Se7en Bites was immediate. In addition to tourists stopping by, the restaurant now ships nationwide.
Trina’s journey has given her a perspective about when things don’t go right. Her favorite quote includes the observation that even if your life becomes a train wreck that at least “train wrecks always make the front page.”
Despite her success, Trina is also dealing with pivoting their business model during the pandemic and facing supply-chain issues that have driven up costs.
What keeps her going strong is her not-so-secret recipe: “love +wisdom = success.“ “This is what 52 looks like,” Trina said. “I don’t see aging as this thing that doesn’t make you stronger and better. Having years behind you gives you that wisdom to go, ‘It’ll be all right. Tomorrow’s another day. Yay!’”