weather unavailableweather unavailable
Make us your home page

Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor

Michelle Stark

Michelle Stark is the Food Editor for the Tampa Bay Times, overseeing the food content online and in print, including cooking and restaurants. She also manages social media accounts for the Entertainment department, including food. Previously, she was part of the Things to Do crew and co-host of Play Tampa Bay. She has designed and edited the Times' daily entertainment page, and wrote weekly about television at The Feed blog. Stark joined the Times after graduating from the University of South Florida in 2010 with degrees in mass communications and international relations.

Phone: (727) 893-8829


Twitter: @MStark17

  1. In Orlando? Try these restaurants a bit off the beaten path

    Food & Dining


    I knew as soon as I stumbled upon the back entrance to Buttermilk Bakery, a small patio flanked by succulents and filled with soft sunlight, that it was my kind of place. The new small-batch bakery, housed in a space the size of an elementary school portable, is churning out gorgeous pastries, brunch and lunch, all full of local ingredients.

    This happened two other times — at the Strand and King Bao, both in the hip, burgeoning Mills 50 neighborhood — during a recent whirlwind weekend trip to Orlando, the city in which I was raised but am still discovering as a culinary obsessive. ...

    The menu at King Bao in Orlando.
  2. From the food editor: How to make Trail Mix Bars, a low-calorie sweet treat


    Next week, we debut our Cake Issue of Taste, in which we'll feature recipes, profiles on local bakers, reader stories and more.

    Which means that in the past few weeks, I have been interviewing people about cake. Making and photographing cake. Reading about cake.

    And, well, eating cake.

    Tough job, right?

    While I firmly believe cake should be an essential part of everyone's lives, I fear I have become too dependent on the almost daily sugar fix. Really, it has to stop....

    Trail Mix Bars. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor
  3. From the food editor: Making your own potato chips is an easy to satisfy cravings


    For me, indulgence almost always takes the form of something crispy and salty.

    This is the flavor and texture I desire when culinary cravings take hold. It's why, like most humans, I can never turn down a hot plate of french fries, or kettle-cooked chips on sale at the grocery store.

    A snack yearning struck recently when I was at home, with no interest in leaving the house. I had some multicolored potatoes on my counter, and a recently resurfaced pin on my Pinterest board for oven-baked potato chips. ...

    Homemade baked potato chips with Sriracha-yogurt dip. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor.
  4. From the food editor: Making falafel at home, plus a pita pocket to put them in


    I love falafel, but it's not something I eat very often. Maybe that's because the state and quality of falafel can vary widely depending on where you get it. Sometimes the crispy chickpea patties taste like nothing more than dense coating and oil.

    Over a plate of very solid house-made falafel at St. Petersburg vegan restaurant Food Love Central the other day, I found myself thinking about whether I could re-create the little orbs at home. ...

  5. Send us your cake stories: birthday, wedding, and everything in between


    Ah, cake. The great equalizer. There seems to be no event — birthday, wedding, job loss, new baby's gender reveal, Valentine's Day, a really tough Tuesday — that cake can't make just a little bit more special. We have felt a pull toward comfort foods especially this year (see my most recent column), and when many story ideas about cake were bubbling up earlier this year, plans for a Cake Issue of Taste began to form. Think decorating tips, a column on special birthday memories, and plenty of recipe ideas. But we also want to hear from you, our readers. Send us your cake stories: memories of a very special slice, recipes for your favorite layered wonder, photos of a homemade decorated delight, etc. Email with CAKE in the subject line, or contact us on Facebook or Twitter....

    Chocolate cake with burned candles.
  6. From the food editor: A wholesome bowl to counteract all of the comfort foods of 2017


    A couple weeks ago, I was listening to a podcast while cooking. I do this a lot. It's how I pass the time in a quiet kitchen. (Though I need more food podcasts to listen to — let me know if you have any suggestions.)

    It was an episode of the New York Times' Still Processing podcast, with pop culture writers Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham. They talk about everything, from Oscar-nominated movies to race in America to making turkey gravy. ...

    Balsamic-Honey Farro Bowl. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor.
  7. Five ideas for almonds: Almond cake, almond-herb sauce, almond-crusted fish


    It's important to take cooking inspiration where you can find it. It's easy for me to get into a rut, cook the same old stuff for dinner each night and leave my creative cooking muscles to languish. So when I stumble on something that really inspires me, I usually take a deep dive.

    So it is with Molly Yeh's cookbook Molly on the Range, from which I've made a handful of recipes now, from breakfast to dinner to dessert. The first recipe in this collection of ideas for how to use almonds is inspired by one of the recipes Yeh published on her blog in 2016, and is sort of the epitome of almond usage. It uses almost every variation there is: almond paste, almond meal, almond extract, actual almonds....

    Almond cake with whipped cream frosting.
  8. From the food editor: Making ricotta gnocchi is the easiest path to homemade pasta


    Usually, there comes a point at which something goes terribly wrong.

    Okay, maybe not terribly, but bad enough that I begin to question everything and briefly wonder why I'm not a person who eats more frozen pizzas.

    That's just how it goes when you're experimenting with new recipes. Or at least it is when I, a chronic recipe skimmer, experiment with new recipes. I am slowly learning my lesson, trying with each new ingredient and instruction list to read carefully, lest I miss a crucial step like, "Let this mixture you just combined sit for 48 hours, thereby ensuring it will definitely not be suitable for tonight's dinner."...

    Ricotta Gnocchi. Photos by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor.
  9. From the food editor: Making bao, the steamed Asian buns, at home


    First of all, you need a proper steamer.

    I did not have one when I set out to make bao, a steamed bun popular in Asian cuisines, but I realized it too late in the game.

    Using the cookbook Molly on the Range by food blogger Molly Yeh as my guide, I took on the task of making the buns from scratch. Yeh's dad is Chinese, and she grew up eating the buns.

    The formula didn't seem too out of my wheelhouse. I've made various breads, bagels, pizza dough, even crackers in my kitchen, using some combination of yeast, flour, fat and sugar. Bao did not require anything more exotic than that. ...

    Schnitzel Bao with Sesame Pickles. [Photo by Molly Yeh.]
  10. Valentine's Day recipes to cook up for your sweetheart at home


    Ah, the day of love. What to do when it falls on a Tuesday, the least romantic day of the week? Get in the kitchen.

    Say you went out for small plates this past weekend, or are headed to your favorite restaurant on Saturday. That makes Tuesday the perfect night to stay home, get cozy, and cook up something delicious. I'll let you decide how to tackle the meal. Maybe one person cooks while the other cleans. Maybe one of you forgot about Valentine's Day altogether, and this is your grand please-don't-be-mad gesture. ...

    Ricotta gnocchi with parsley pesto, topped with pistachios and cheese. (Photo by the New  York Times)
  11. From the food editor: For Valentine's Day, I tried making macarons at home


    There are a couple of different ways to approach your Valentine's Day food plan.

    You can keep things low-key, even pointedly cheap. (For 50 of the best affordable spots in Tampa Bay, check out Or the holiday of love (or eye-rolling, depending on how cynical you are) can be a time to think about extravagant foods, items you wouldn't normally eat or cook but that can help woo a special someone. ...

    French macarons. (TNS)
  12. Family-owned Pinellas Chocolate Company makes chocolate from scratch in Largo



    Pulverized composite, aerohydraulic cylinder, stirred ball mill. These are not terms we think of when we're standing in the candy aisle, staring down a line of heart-shaped boxes full of chocolate.

    And yet here is Addam Vessa, 36, standing in the Largo kitchen and retail shop he runs with his brother, Cody, 29. He's walking me through the process of turning cacao beans into chocolate bars. ...

    ,From left, brothers Cody and Addam Vessa take a break from the action. Cody heads the work in the kitchen. Addam is in charge of the front-of-the-house.
  13. Chicken wing recipes to try on Super Bowl Sunday


    If your Super Bowl traditions involve time in the kitchen, here are three chicken wing recipes to try on Sunday. This is also a good way to keep things lighter but still sort of indulgent on game day, as homemade grub tends to be healthier even if you load up dark meat and creamy dressings.

    This is my go-to wing recipe. It's simple, it's relatively healthy, and it's very delicious. We're not depriving ourselves of any crispy wing goodness here. It's there, thanks to the olive oil and the hot oven. Of course, you can serve it with any creamy dressing you want, but I love the freshness of this ranch recipe. Also, it has come in handy in a pinch when I don't have a bottle already in my fridge. ...

    bbq chicken buffalo wings on a black baking plate
  14. From the food editor: Slider recipes for your Super Bowl Sunday smorgasbord


    For many of us, the Super Bowl is just one more reason to eat something we normally wouldn't.

    So on Sunday, when the New England Patriots take on the Atlanta Falcons in Houston (why, yes, I did have to Google all of those facts), my attention will be turned to a super smorgasbord.

    Our cover story is a fascinating look at chicken wings, which Americans consume billions of each year, none more so than on Super Bowl Sunday. ...

    Beer steamed cheese and mushroom beef sliders. (Photo by Associated Press)
  15. From the food editor: What you should be doing now to prepare for Thanksgiving


    Let's face it: Most people don't wait until the week of to start thinking about Thanksgiving dinner. Many cooks, especially those who are hosting a lot of people, are planning/dreading/anticipating the year's largest meal weeks before. I know I am, as I prepare to host about a dozen people at my house on Nov. 24.

    Here are some key things to start thinking about in the coming weeks if you also have turkey on the brain. ...

    Order a turkey early if you're buying fresh.[Times files]