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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. Recipe for Chicken Wings with Coconut Sweet Potato Puree


    This dish is an homage to one of my favorite Epcot International Food and Wine Festival dishes: Grilled Beef Skewer With Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree from the Patagonia kiosk. A boniato is a sweet potato with whiter flesh and a typically sweeter flavor. I use standard sweet potatoes in this recipe, plus a little coconut milk to create a luscious puree.


    Chicken Wings with Sweet Potato Puree. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor.
  2. From the food editor: 'MasterChef' winner Shaun O'Neale talks cooking at Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival


    There are certain reliable signs that fall is on the way. Nothing in the weather department, of course, but other markers that usher in the celebratory final months of the year. One of those things is the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, which happens annually in Orlando, seemingly longer and more jam-packed with food each year. This year's event is no exception: It starts next week, on Aug. 31, and runs through Nov. 13....

    Shaun O'Neale, a self-taught chef who won the 7th season of 'MasterChef' and has ties to Tampa. He'll be cooking at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival on Sept. 3.
  3. From the food editor: How to make your own avocado toast


    As a millennial, I am genetically predisposed to like avocado toast, craving it any time of day, willing to give up a limb to get my hands on some.

    Is that right?

    We are living in a time of peak avocado toast. And while the dish has been on menus at many a trendy restaurant for some time now, it really rose to the level of mass cultural awareness back in May when an Australian property mogul named Tim Gurner told 60 Minutes that in order to be able to buy a house, millennials needed to start saving money. And that means no toast....

    Homemade avocado toast. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  4. St. Petersburg's Maureen Cacioppo hand-harvests sea salt from the shores of Florida



    We are standing in the sand, deciding whether to traverse a pool of water the tide just brought in.

    Maureen Cacioppo, 35, owner of small-batch salt company Florida Pure Sea Salt, and I are at a beach near the Skyway Bridge Fishing Pier. We are trying to find an area clear of seaweed and people.

    This is our second encounter. At our first, I learned that the "hand harvested" phrase on each jar of Florida Pure Sea Salt is no exaggeration. That Cacioppo spends hours in the waters around the Tampa Bay area, schlepping 5-gallon buckets of water from the ocean back to her car. That, from there, it can take anywhere from four days to two months to extract the salt from the water and turn it into a finished product sold at local markets and stores....

    Maureen Cacioppo hand-harvests and hand-crafts her own sea salt.
  5. Recipe: With chickpeas and farro, Chicken Sausage Skillet is a healthy, simple dinner


    For something a little different, try chicken sausage. It's a barely noticeable swap in things like soup or chili, but it can also be the star in a main dish. In this recipe, we're cooking everything in the same skillet to generate maximum flavor, and doubling down on the chicken flavor by using chicken broth to cook nutty farro.

    Sign up for our cooking email to get weekly updates from food editor Michelle Stark. ...

    Chicken Sausage Skillet recipe. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  6. From the food editor: Three tips for preparing chicken breast


    This week we turn our attention to the humble chicken breast, a go-to protein for many home cooks. But it's easy to get into a chicken rut, relying on the same recipe over and over or cooking it in a way that results in something bland and boring.

    You deserve a tastier bite, but in a reasonable amount of time.

    I asked around the Features department to see if any of my colleagues had go-to recipes for turning this cut of meat into a satisfying but easy weeknight dinner. You can find their ideas, and a couple of my own, here — and most of them come together in less than 30 minutes....

    Parchment Chicken [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  7. 10 chicken breast recipes that aren't bland or boring


    The more going on in our lives, the less going on in the kitchen. That's usually how it goes at my house. And if back-to-school time translates to a more hectic schedule for you and yours, cooking needs to be quick, easy and worth the effort.

    There are some standbys we can turn to at times like these: spaghetti nights, make-your-own tacos, meals that can please a wide range of palates without requiring too much from the one putting it all together. ...

    Chicken Parmesan tastes like home, though this version has matured a bit since childhood. [EVE EDELHEIT   |    Times]
  8. Five ways to celebrate National Watermelon Day in Tampa Bay


    We all know food holidays are arbitrary. But this is one that actually makes a lot of sense: National Watermelon Day on August 3, smack dab in the middle of a sticky summer. Allow the juicy fruit to cool you off in a myriad of ways around Tampa Bay....

     This is a Florida Favorite watermelon, a hybrid of the Bradford and the Georgia Rattlesnake varieties. [Photo by MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
  9. This is one of the easiest ways to cook chicken breast


    The fancy French term for cooking chicken in parchment paper is en papillote. But the word is more complicated than the actual method, which results in moist, flavorful chicken every time.

    The basics stay the same each time: Wrap chicken breast in a parchment paper packet, coat with olive oil and season, bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. But you can play with the toppings. Here are some of my favorite combinations:...

    Parchment chicken with red onion, lemon and dill. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  10. From the food editor: Trick yourself into thinking fall is on the way with this Pumpkin Parmesan Polenta


    Two cookbooks appeared on my desk this week: Tasting Cider and The Pumpkin Cookbook: 139 Recipes Celebrating the Versatility of Pumpkin and Other Winter Squash.

    Is it fall yet?

    The second half of the year always sneaks up on me. One second it's May and the next it's October, and time to start planning the Thanksgiving menu. August tends to be the turning point. Kids go back to school. Craft stores begin to trot out stuffed scarecrows. Retailers seem to think it's time for us all to start buying sweaters....

    Pumpkin Parmesan Polenta, served with seared pork. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  11. Five ideas for cooking with ground turkey


    I rarely cook with ground beef. Ground turkey became the go-to ground protein in my kitchen years ago. As meats go, it's pretty ideal: not a ton of raw meat juices, easy enough to cook in a pinch, more flavor than ground chicken. I sub turkey in for just about any recipe that calls for ground beef, except on those occasions when I'm craving a juicy cheeseburger. Turkey burgers are in constant rotation on my weeknight dinner list, however, along with the other recipes here. ...

    Red Bean and Turkey Chili makes for a hearty meal.
  12. From the food editor: Three ways to indulge your red meat cravings


    After a certain point in my life, it became a reliable joke at the house of one my best friends: Michelle loves meat.

    I went over there a lot through many stages of life, from elementary school to the weird preteen years up through college, and was often invited for dinner. (Hi, Kiebzaks!) Over the years, the notion stuck: Michelle enjoys a hearty burger or a rack of ribs and is not ashamed to dig in. If ever there was a steak going on the grill, or a meatloaf in the oven, my friend's dad would get a glimmer in his eye, and the playful, er, ribbing would begin. More than once I ate my friend's share of meat, especially when it was, to her chagrin, meatloaf night....

  13. Recipe for Nutty Quinoa Carbonara


    If you've never made carbonara, consider adding it to your weekday dinner lineup. It is a traditional Italian pasta dish in which eggs are mixed with cheese and then swirled into cooked pasta just before serving. The result is a luscious bowl of food you won't believe contains so few ingredients. This recipe swaps quinoa for spaghetti to great, protein-packed effect.

    The original recipe calls for bacon, which I don't really keep in the house and didn't have time to buy when I cooked this in a pinch for dinner one night. In the end, it didn't matter: My husband quickly declared this one of his two favorite meals I've ever made. (The other: chicken and dumplings.)...

    Quinoa Carbonara. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  14. From the food editor: For cherry season, four ways to use the sweet fruit


    Living in Florida, there are a lot of reasons to hate summer: Unpredictable thunderstorms ruin many an activity. That thing where you're never appropriately dressed because you have to bare all outside but stores set their air conditioning to 57 degrees. Sweat puddles. Actual puddles.

    But one of life's true delights this time of year is the prevalence of fresh fruits, especially stone fruits: peaches, plums and cherries....

    Cherry Salsa atop steak tacos. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor.
  15. For something different this summer, try a grilled salad with one of these lettuces


    There are plenty of go-to grillables: chicken wings, thick steaks, chunky vegetables skewered with a kebab. But the smoke and char of this specific cooking method can do wonders for something less expected: lettuce.

    Grilling lettuce completely transforms the watery, crunchy salad base into something more sumptuous. The heat of the grill wilts the insides slightly, charring the outer leaves and warming the stalk. I know, it sounds kind of weird, but there is something about the almost-bitter flavor that, especially when paired with a creamy dressing or a fresh squeeze of lemon, will make you think about a piece of romaine in a different way. ...

    Grilled radicchio. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]