Michelle Lee
Dream 24 Hours

Celebrity Pastry Chef Michelle Lee Shares Her Peninsula Sweet Spots

The Food Network alum dishes on the area’s best bites ahead of the Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival.
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Pastry chef Michelle Lee solidified her spot as a culinary star when she competed on the Food Network’s popular “Halloween Baking Championship” and “Big Bake Holiday” shows in 2020 and 2021. But the Monterey Peninsula native was already well known for her work at InterContinental The Clement Monterey, where she currently serves as sous chef, as well as her tenure at heavy hitting Las Vegas restaurants like Joël Robuchon at MGM Grand. Her desserts often evoke childhood nostalgia in the best possible way—sift through her Instagram account and you’ll find candy-bar inspired confections and ice cream topped with potato chip crumbles. Next month, you can sample her sweets at Pebble Beach Food & Wine (April 4-7), where she joins some of the country’s most celebrated chefs and sommeliers for the festival’s highly anticipated return following a four year hiatus. In honor of the event, she’s sharing all her local food favorites—from the best burrito to the Thai treats at the Monterey Farmers Market. 

LOCALS ONLY DISCOUNT: Pebble Beach Food & Wine is offering 25% off tickets to the Tasting Pavilion on Sunday, April 7 for those living within 250 miles of Pebble Beach. Use code LOCALS at checkout (while supplies last).


Start the day with

A cappuccino at ACME coffee in Seaside and a Parker-Lusseau pastry.

Local sweet treats

At the Tuesday Monterey Farmers Market in Monterey you can find a small business called Taevada Treats which features Thai-inspired desserts. The Thai babin waffles (which happen to be vegan and gluten free) are a standout, and come in fun flavors like pina colada, ube and pandan. They are amazing toasted!

The thing I appreciate most about living here is

The natural beauty! I grew up in Pacific Grove and never really appreciated its beauty until I moved away. There are so many beaches and trails to explore. Some of my favorite spots to visit are Carmel Beach, Garland Ranch, Asilomar State Beach, Point Lobos and Garrapata Beach. And it’s always essential to visit Big Sur. It’s a tricky, winding drive, but the most beautiful, breathtaking views imaginable.

I always take visitors to

Pick up some cheese and a baguette at The Cheese Shop in Carmel or, on Thursdays, walk over to the Carmel Farmers Market. Then, head down to the beach for a picnic and playtime with the dogs. A perfect day!


When friends ask, “Where should we eat?” I always say

La Balena in Carmel for artisanal Italian fare and a killer wine list. (Try the fried chicken!)

For the best pizza (and burger!) visit

I regularly drive to Watsonville for Slice Project Pizza. They serve a NY-style thin crust pizza, as well as a thick Detroit-style square, with crisp, cheesy edges. Bonus: Slice Project Pizza also has regular smash burger pop-ups on Thursdays (called The Widow Burger) — get the Double Classic with fries!

For the best burrito visit

El Charrito is legendary! They have an “express” location on Alvarado Street in Monterey behind Alejandro’s restaurant, but their original location in Salinas has a larger menu. (Snag a pack of flour tortillas if you can!)


Outside the (restaurant) box

In Santa Cruz, Hanloh Thai has a pop-up residency at Bad Animal, and it is hands down some of the best food I’ve eaten in the area, ever. The menu changes regularly and the food is so bold and fresh and alive, it is truly special. And the wine list is amazing.

The perfect place for a night cap

Pearl Hour in Monterey or Foray in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Cover illustration by Kelsey Wisdom

on the Peninsula

Map of the Peninsula

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