Marisa Baggett’s passion for food led her to an early career in culinary arts. At the age of 22, she opened The Chocolate Giraffe, a restaurant and catering company in her hometown of Starkville, MS that specialized in Southern fare with a global twist as well as provided desserts for special occasions. One year later, Baggett expanded with The Chocolate Giraffe Coffeehouse. But it was the special request of a dinner party client that Baggett’s passion for food would truly be expanded. Due to a lack of nearby sushi bars, Baggett was asked to host a sushi dinner. She accepted the challenge and soon became fascinated by the art. Her fascination prompted her to add sushi to her regular menu at the restaurant and it became a quick hit.
Baggett soon realized that she wanted to pursue becoming a sushi chef. Though it was a difficult decision, she chose to close The Chocolate Giraffe and The Chocolate Giraffe Coffeehouse to leave Starkville in pursuit of her dream. Before heading off to California, Baggett made a culinary pit stop in Memphis, TN and worked as a pastry cook at Tsunami Restaurant. Surrounded by the fresh abundance of seafood and the Asian-inspired cuisine of Chef Ben Smith, her dream of becoming a sushi chef intensified. She left her position at Tsunami and enrolled in the professional sushi chef program at the California Sushi Academy.
At the California Sushi Academy, Baggett studied the delicate arts of sashimi, nigiri-zushi, makimono, and kaiseki under the critical eyes of restaurateur, sushi master and sake sommelier Toshi Sugiura as well as respected sushi master Nobuo Kishimoto. In addition to classroom time, Baggett assisted with recreational sushi classes, helped cater sushi for high profile Los Angeles events and spent time observing as well as assisting head sushi chefs in Venice Beach and Hermosa Beach. Upon completing her training, Baggett became the first African American female graduate of the school.
Baggett returned to the South and shared her knowledge of sushi with Memphians as the sushi chef of Do Sushi Bar and Lounge. During her time there, Baggett gained local, national and international recognition for her Southern twist on sushi. After three years, Baggett decided to leave Do Sushi and focus on sharing the art of sushi as a traveling itamae, teaching sushi classes at various gourmet food markets and private homes, creating “tsushi” for Tsunami Restaurant in Memphis, TN.
Currently, Baggett is a freelance writer, sushi consultant, sushi event chef, and an advocate for sustainable seafood use for sushi. Her first book, Sushi Secrets: Easy Recipes for the Home Cook, can be purchased from on-line booksellers or in bookstores.