The Rapidian

Italian chef delivers family recipe to Eastown

Grand Rapids resident Michelle Barnes bakes focaccia for the community from Uptown Kitchen.

Mrs. B's Focaccia can be found on Facebook.

Mrs. B's Focaccia

A venue for Mrs. B's cooking, Uptown Kitchen

A venue for Mrs. B's cooking, Uptown Kitchen /courtesy of LEJ Studios

It looks like Italy may not be so far away.

Michelle Barnes, long time chef for family and friends, moved her cooking to Eastown two years ago and brought a little slice of Italy with her: focaccia.

Focaccia is oven-baked Italian bread often coated and infused with herbs, oils, cheese, vegetables and meats and other ingredients. It can be eaten solo, or it can be just one part of another dish, like bread for a sandwich.

Barnes has Italian roots and remembers from her earliest years the singing and cooking her family did together in the kitchen.

“We cooked everything, and we were always singing,” says Barnes. In addition to her culinary talents, she practiced medicine for many years, taught cooking lessons, and became a mother and grandmother along the way.

“My children are all very good cooks, and they all have styles of their own,” says Barnes. She knows she made her culinary dishes unique from what she was taught and enjoys the variety her three children bring to the table.

Like Barnes led her children to love the art of cooking, she also learned to love cooking from her parents and grandparents. Her grandmother, a proud cook, left a lasting impression on her. Her parents owned a café that served coffee, pastries and Italian dishes. Barnes is proudly the first to note that her mom made absolutely everything. Her family had always brought good food to others, so it seemed obvious for her to do the same.

Barnes takes great pride in her cooking, striving to only make the best. She admits she can be picky in cooking, but for the right reasons, looking only to use fresh ingredients. She does a lot of her commercial work out of Uptown Kitchen as Mrs. B’s Focaccia on Lake Drive and plans to do even more in the upcoming year.

With so many ways to enjoy focaccia, Barnes had a hard time answering what her absolute favorite way to enjoy the bread is.

“It makes a great pizza crust,” Barnes remarks. “It’s better than the crust you see on pizzas that most people just would throw away.”

Barnes says she makes many vegetarian, dairy-free and vegan options as well.

Michelle Barnes sells her dishes through Uptown Kitchen, market venues and directly from her kitchen at home.

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