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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

Email: mstark@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MStark17

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  1. Tips for first-time Thanksgiving hosts (or really, any of us)

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    Take small bites.

    This may be the most crucial advice for Thanksgiving hosts who don't have years of cooking and coordinating experience to provide the confidence that comes with leading the charge on the year's biggest cooking day.

    It's the first thing Tucker Shaw, editor in chief of Cook's Country and a member of America's Test Kitchen, said when I asked him how to prepare for a first-time hosting gig. And all of the best Thanksgiving wisdom tends to flow from that. By parsing the meal into smaller morsels, you can get a better handle on things without becoming overwhelmed. It's something even longtime hosts should keep in mind....

    Heidi Diestel’s grandfather started Diestel Family Turkey Ranch.
  2. Thanksgiving 101: Everything you need to prepare for the big cooking day

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    From appetizers to pies and everything in between, we're here to help you put together a low-stress Thanksgiving spread. Here are a few ideas, and be sure to check out our Thanksgiving special report for more tips on preparing for the big day.

    Ideas for sides

    These recipes go beyond the traditional, with a corn casserole, Brussels sprout salad and more...

    (Andrew Scrivani/The New York Times)
  3. How to make a pie from scratch: filling ideas, decorating tips, crust recipes and more

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    Perfect your crust. Try new filling recipes. Learn some decorating tricks. And prepare for the biggest pie day of the year: Thanksgiving.

    From apple to thyme

    You've got the crust down. Now it's time to choose a filling for your holiday pie. Try one of these five recipes, which range from classic to unexpected...

    Plum Fig and Thyme Pie. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  4. Thanksgiving sides beyond the classics: corn casserole, Brussels sprouts salad, pecan pie carrots

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    There are probably a handful of essentials, things you must have on the Thanksgiving table lest some family members begin to riot. But I find there are often a couple of slots open for new things, chances to get weird or creative or, gasp, healthy.

    My favorite Thanksgiving sides are dishes that aren't too elaborate or too pungently flavored. They must be pretty easy to make. They must have that yum factor. And, frankly, they must be things that don't taste terrible when they are lukewarm, because we all know the struggle of trying to serve everything piping hot. ...

    Various sides to serve at Thanksgiving.  Bottom clockwise: Cheesy Corn Casserole, Brown Butter Cauliflower, Pecan Pie Carrots, Brussels Sprout Salad, center. FOR TASTE SECTION.
  5. How to make solid turkey gravy before Thanksgiving Day

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    As far as we're concerned, anything you can make in advance of actual Thanksgiving Day is a good thing, and this make-ahead gravy fits the bill.

    Plus, Tucker Shaw of America's Test Kitchen says it tastes just as good as if you made it with fresh turkey pan drippings.

    "We think that gravy is a little bit mysterious, because people don't make it all the time," Shaw says. "And it's really not hard to make, but if you have 10 people in the kitchen, and you have a bunch of stuff going on, things can go south really quickly."...

    Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy uses turkey meat plus the giblets and neck that come already bundled in the whole turkey.
  6. From the food editor: An expert weighs in on how to stay calm this Thanksgiving

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    I can tell right away that Tucker Shaw has thought about Thanksgiving a lot, and not just as a home cook. As the editor in chief of Cook's Country, a member of America's Test Kitchen and the former dining critic and food editor at the Denver Post, Shaw has had a lot of practice advising other cooks about how to prepare for the big day.

    It shows. He is refreshingly chill about the topic when we chat by phone, as I seek tips for this special Thanksgiving issue of Taste. He starts by suggesting a big batch of cocktails for Turkey Day, and this is how I know I can trust whatever else he says. ...

    Pumpkin pie developed by America's Test Kitchen
  7. Up your pie game with these crust decorating tips

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    Something happened halfway through the second strip of pie crust I was braiding. A serene energy washed over me, calmness radiating to my flour-caked hands, to my feet sore from hours of standing in the same spot on the kitchen tile, to streaks of raw pie crust in my hair. It had been a bit of a journey, getting to this point, but now that I was here? Nothing but straight-up tranquility.

    So it goes with crafting pie crust into decorative doodads — most of the chemistry and math required of all baking projects is done, and now you can play. After topping three different pies with different shapes and lattices and even cut-out letters, I learned a few things. ...

    MARILENA PERILLI   |   Special to the Times
  8. Five pie recipes to make for Thanksgiving, or any time of year

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    MODERATE

    Classic Apple Pie

    Pie dough, homemade or storebought, enough for 2 (9-inch) pies

    2 tablespoons unsalted butter

    2 ½ pounds apples, peeled and cored, then cut into wedges (5 large honeycrisps will do it)

    ¼ teaspoon ground allspice

    ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

    ¼ teaspoon kosher salt...

    Photo by SCOTT KEELER   |   Times; pie by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor
  9. Three things to do with leftover pie crust that aren't pie

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    Pie, oh my. I am all in on the flaky, homey dessert this time of year. The past couple of weeks, I've been collecting ideas for perfecting pie crust, trying new pie recipes and preparing for what is perhaps the biggest pie day of the year: Thanksgiving.

    But sometimes, you're all pie-d out. Like when you test six different pies, braiding pie crust into the wee hours of the night. Oh, just me? Well, you can still love pie and also love the recipes below, which are ways to use pie crust that go beyond crust-filling-lattice basics. In addition to being helpful ways to use up leftover pie crust, these recipes are also a great excuse to eat pie crust any time of year....

    Brussels sprout tart. a good way to use up leftover pie crust. Photos by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor.
  10. The secret to gluten-free pie crust? The folks at Craft Kafe offer cooking tips

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    ST. PETERSBURG — They begin around 5 a.m. every day, pouring grains like brown rice, basmati and sorghum into a stone mill the size of a small table. It's the base for a gluten-free flour blend that is crucial to Craft Kafe's mission: to remain entirely gluten-free.

    The cafe in west St. Petersburg, which serves coffee and dozens of gluten-free and sometimes vegan pastries plus lunch and dinner items, opened a couple years ago when Teddy Skiadiotis saw a need in the community for a place that did not dabble in any gluten. Owners Skiadiotis and Ed Briones are currently in the process of expanding, opening a second location in downtown St. Petersburg in the coming months....

    For the holidays, Craft Kafe is making full-size versions of gluten-free dutch apple, pecan and pumpkin pie.
  11. From the food editor: Warm and cozy drinks to make for the holiday season

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    When I read this story about perfecting a homemade cold brew coffee, I nearly spit out my latte.

    Times staffer Scott Pollenz starts out with a bold claim: "There is almost no drink better hot than it is cold, and especially not coffee."...

    Sugar and Spice Latte. Photos by Michelle Stark, Times Food Editor.
  12. Made Coffee's cold brew creation is brewed and canned right here in Tampa Bay

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Let's start with the actual can itself, a turquoise-tan-orange vessel emblazoned with text and illustrations: "Ingredients: coffee, water, time"; an image of a simple coffee brewing process under "How we made it." The colors pop, the fonts are hip, and the vibe is instantly clear: pure coffee, made right here in the increasingly entrepreneurial-driven St. Petersburg.

    This is the future of coffee, at least according to Michael Rideout, 34, founder along with Taylor Prater, 32, of Made Coffee. The company is churning out canned cold brew across the street from 3 Daughters Brewing on 22nd Street S. Rideout says they're the first Florida company to put a "flat" (as opposed to nitro) coffee brew in a can. And they have big aspirations to build on that, to be the coffee brand of Florida. ("It's the right weather for cold coffee all year round," Rideout says.)...

    Made Coffee is produced in a small production facility across the street from 3 Daughters Brewing on 22nd Street S.
  13. Eat Fresco Foods' healthy, convenient prepared meals are crafted in Tampa

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    Chickens cook in the kitchen at Fresco Food's Tampa warehouse. On one stainless steel table, naked macaroni is steaming, ready to be coated with cheese. A walk-in refrigerator is stocked with fresh vegetables.

    I'm touring the local company's facility, an office/industrial kitchen hybrid that has been home base since January. Eat Fresco specializes in prepared meals you can buy from the grocery store. But unlike most prepared meals, they are not frozen. And they are prepared and packaged right here....

    Eat Fresco's Turkey Breast and Quinoa Medley meal.
  14. Don't get spooked: How to work with intimidating ingredients in the kitchen

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    It's easy to get spooked in the kitchen. In the spirit of this time of year, we have assembled five ingredients that may strike fear into the heart of home cooks — and offer some tips for how best to combat the potential horrors.

    Ash-infused cheese

    What it is: In France over the summer, I stopped at a cheese shop in Strasbourg. L'Epicier Grand Cru, a boutique cheese shop on the Grande Rue, offers specialty cheeses from all over Europe, and I got to go into the freezer and help choose cheeses for a cheese board our group was sharing. Naturally, I went for cheeses with which I was familiar: a cranberry goat cheese, Gorgonzola, Parmesan. Then, tucked back in a corner, I saw a cheese covered in a dark, powdery substance....

    Truffles, which are mushrooms that grow underground, come in black and white. If you’re going to splurge, splurge on a truffle.
  15. From the food editor: Shout out to my husband, the world's least picky eater, with this bowl of pappardelle

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    Oh, hello, end of October. When the heck did you get here?

    It seems to happen faster every year, the arrival of the busy, wonderful, food-filled holiday season. My deskmate was appalled recently to hear talk of Thanksgiving and Christmas issues. I had to remind her — and myself — that the latter holiday is just two months away.

    Another big celebratory event heading my way? My one-year wedding anniversary. As my husband and I prepare for a trip to New England to celebrate, I am relying on quick and easy dinners that can appeal to both of us. ...

    Pappardelle with Cream Sauce and Mint. Photo by Michelle Stark, Times food editor.