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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. From the food editor: How to quick pickle red onions


    Like mom jeans and every TV show you loved 20 years ago, fermenting is an old (ancient, even) thing trending with a new generation.

    You'll learn all about how in this fermenting story, which identifies some major players in the local fermentation scene and breaks down the various techniques for preparing food in this way. ...

    Quick Pickled Red Onions.
  2. Review: Animal Kingdom's new restaurant Tiffins offers fine dining inside the theme park

    Food & Dining

    One of the newest restaurants out at Walt Disney World is also one of its most high-end. And unlike other fancy options like California Grill in the Contemporary Resort, this one is located inside a theme park.

    Tiffins, which opened about a year ago in the Discovery Island area of the Animal Kingdom park, sits right on the edge of what will become Avatar land on May 27. The name refers to an Indian word for a type of container used to carry food....

    Berkshire Pork Tenderloin, pork and masa tamale, hominy succotash, red mole sauce at Tiffins. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor
  3. From the food editor: How to make balsamic vinaigrette and creamy lemon salad dressing from scratch


    There are some foods you make from scratch at home that fail to live up to the versions of more experienced chefs or processed foods producers. I make a very decent homemade pizza crust, but it doesn't compare to one from a restaurant that cooks its pies in an 800-degree brick oven, or a frozen DiGiorno (just kidding, it's way better than that).

    I thought salad dressing would be one of those things. "How could I ever recreate the genius that is gloppy, white ranch from a bottle?" I have thought many times. Well, fellow dressing lovers, it can be done. ...

    Creamy lemon dressing made with mascarpone cheese, olive oil and mustard. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  4. From the food editor: For Grilled Cheese Day, tips on perfecting the sandwich from a Tampa food truck owner


    April 12 is Grilled Cheese Day, one of those food holidays of mysterious origin that don't mean much beyond being a great excuse to talk about and nosh on the featured food.

    To dish about the art of grilled cheese, I got in touch with Elaine Thompson from the Twisted Iron, a food truck based in Tampa known for their prolific use of waffles. One of Thompson's most popular creations was a French Onion Grilled Cheese, made with a vegetarian French onion base and covered with melted provolone cheese. ...

    Tomato Jam Grilled Cheese. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.
  5. Pork primer: The different cuts, and how to cook them


    It's easy to get lost in a plethora of pork.

    There is always so much of it at grocery stores, the pink meat turned into a seemingly endless amount of cuts: rib roast, spare rib, center-cut chop. Bacon, belly, Boston butt. And what about ham?

    Ah, ham, the spiral-cut staple of many Easter tables. No offense to this particular cut, the kind we buy at the store usually injected with a mixture of salt and sugar that cures it, but we know what ham is all about. Been there. So this Sunday, why not try another cut?...

    Pork Tenderloin
  6. Heading to Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival? Here are some other food spots to try


    Just to the right of Epcot's Eiffel Tower, there is a little walkway. It's easy to miss if you're hustling along, eager to get your hands on a chocolate macaron at the theme park's France pavilion. But stroll down the sidewalk, and it's a gateway to some of Walt Disney World's hidden gems.

    If you're in town for Epcot's annual International Flower and Garden Festival and you've had your fill of small plates from the event's 15 food kiosks, exit through the park's back entrance, known as the International Gateway. The path leads to three resorts, the BoardWalk and the Yacht and Beach Clubs, and is an ideal way in and out of the park for people staying there. ...

    Cocktails at Tiffins include the Annapurna Zing (gin, passion fruit puree, mint, lime juice and ginger beer) and a house beer.
  7. At Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival, the link between food and plants is stronger than ever


    While you're waiting in line for shrimp and grits from the Florida Fresh kitchen at Epcot's International Flower and Garden Festival, it's fun to play Spot the Produce. To your left, you can spy the bright green leaves of sweet potato plants. Next to that, off-white turnips pop up out of the ground. Near the plastic utensil station, almost fully grown pineapples seem ready for picking.

    This is no accident. ...

    Scenery and plants at Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival.
  8. 8 places to pick blueberries in the Tampa Bay area


    It's blueberry season in Tampa Bay, a little earlier than usual. Here are eight places at which you can get down in the dirt and pick the small, sweet berries yourself.

    Blueberries hover around $5 per pound at many of these farms, which recommend coming in the early morning to avoid the Florida heat. It's also a good idea to give these places a call before you head over, as hours can change daily based on weather and crop availability. Some of these are open until June, but your best bet for picking is probably within the next month. Don't forget the cash and sunscreen. ...

    Blueberries at Proctor's Family Farm. [SKIP O'ROURKE  |  Times]
  9. From the food editor: Cutting out excess sugars may be wise, but it's not easy


    I'll admit that when I heard Tampa Bay Times staff writer Claire McNeill pitch a recent story, my eyes widened in horror.

    At the time, she was a couple of days into her challenge to give up added sugars for an entire month. The idea was sparked by a couple of recent articles, one from the New York Times in particular, that make the case for how bad excess sugar can be to our health. The Times' coverage was spurred by Gary Taubes' recent book The Case Against Sugar, which lays out a blunt warning about the overuse of sugar — specifically, how it has led to some of the most widespread diseases in the Western world....

    Salmon with Artichoke Cous Cous. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor.
  10. Three mug cake recipes ready in less than 90 seconds



    Chocolate Peanut Butter Mug Cake


    • 3 tablespoons flour
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • Pinch of salt
    • 3 tablespoons milk
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1 tablespoon peanut butter


    1. In a large mug, whisk (with a small whisk or large fork) together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt). Add the milk, vegetable oil and peanut butter. Whisk until smooth.
    2. Cook in the microwave on high for 1 minute and 10 seconds. Serve right away, preferably with some cinnamon, walnuts or a big glob of ice cream.
    Adapted from

    Photo by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor
  11. Wandering Whisk Bakeshop serving bright cakes, cookies, macarons out of a home in St. Petersburg



    It happened by accident.

    Jennifer Jacobs, 29, made red velvet cookie sandwiches for Valentine's Day and brought them to her office at HSN in St. Petersburg.

    People went nuts.

    "They were offering me money for them," Jacobs said.

    She made more batches at the request of her co-workers.

    "All these guys I worked with would buy them for their families, and the cookies would never make it home." ...

    Passion Fruit French Macarons from St. Petersburg home bakery Wandering Whisk Bakeshop.
  12. From the food editor: A chat with Molly Yeh, and an attempt at her Funfetti Cake


    When setting out to make a Funfetti Cake, you need to channel your most whimsical inner self.

    This is not going to be a decadent chocolate wonder.

    It is a very white cake, in which there has been a sprinkle explosion. And it is evocatively delicious in a way that conjures burning wax birthday candles and colorful childhood cakes.

    The reason to make a Funfetti Cake from scratch is the same reason I cook anything at all: It's fun. ...

    Funfetti Cake, made using food blogger Molly Yeh's recipe. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor.
  13. Let's celebrate cake, the treat that often brings us together, with these recipes, decorating tips and more


    I don't need to tell you how to make a cake using a box of Duncan Hines mix. If what you're going for is ease and speed, have at it. This week is dedicated to the idea of crafting cakes from scratch — how other bakers, from novices to blogger to pros, do it, and how you can, too.

    Cakes can take many forms: layer, sheet, cup. But they all start with the same sort of batter, a comforting mixture of flour and oil and eggs that can be endlessly dressed up. This is where the fun of making that batter yourself comes in: Creativity abounds. ...

    Chocolate Tahini Cake. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor.
  14. 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. ...

    House-made pastries at Buttermilk Bakery. Clockwise from left: brownie with sea salt, dark chocolate and almond tea cake, polenta tea cake with strawberry jam, chocolate croissant.
  15. 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