Michelle Hooton's career in the kitchen started out early at the age 5 when her parents gave her an Easy Bake Oven.  She practiced her baking on her dad, who was a willing taste tester!  Michelle was preparing family dinners at the age of 10 and to this day, she still remembers sitting in grade school thinking about what to cook for dinner.  Michelle and a friend ran a catering business in when she was in her mid-twenties, scoring her first job when her twin girls were just 10 months old!  Her daughters accompanied her to her jobs. When she looks back on that period in her life, she says "Probably not the most professional way to present ourselves…oh well the food rocked!"  And it IS all about the food, right?

In 1999, Michelle opened Sister’s Italian Food - a small Italian gourmet take out and grocery store offering house made pastas, sauces, breads, salads, sandwiches and pizzas along with imported Italian groceries, meats and cheeses until 2004 when she sold the business. Michelle's been blogging just over a year over at Bite by Michelle but already has an impressive number of posts, especially on Italian food.

Proof? Check out this striking grape tomato and spring chive pasta:

Or what about this gorgeously puffy pillows of lemon-mascarpone gnocchi?

And for something sweet, Michelle can offer you this beautiful lemon thyme ice cream:

You see, Michelle's all about Italian food - even more so since she began cooking for Italian by Night Wednesday through Friday evenings - the evening service at Urban Deli in Saint John.  Their menu is "an appreciative nod to Italy’s many savory regions, like Toscana and Sicilia. The goal is to deliver an authentic Italian cuisine in [a] historic urban setting."  You can read a little more about the concept here and read Michelle's take on Italian by Night in her posts here.  Suffice to say if you're ever in Saint John, you need to check it out - look at the Summer Menu (just launched this week!) for a taste of Italy.

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Michelle also has a great sense of humour - I particularly loved that she made hot fudge sundaes "for the Rapture" (remember that in May 2011?).  She figured that if it was all going to be over, she might as well go out in style! Like this:

Michelle's posts feature simple recipes, prepared with love for the people she loves.  As Michelle says "The secret to being a good cook is to use great ingredients. The secret to being a great cook is to use your ingredients with love."  Words to live by, for sure!

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