Culinary Class

Sushi with Chef Marisa Baggett

By: Emily Havener

Memphis catering chef, Marisa Baggett demystifies sushi while honoring its tradition


actually started making and serving and selling sushi before I really knew what I was doing,” says chef Marisa Baggett. A customer of her former Starkville, Mississippi, catering business made a special request for sushi that she filled with ingredients she was able to source locally—and she has been using creative ingredients in her rolls ever since.

Sushi quickly became her passion: She trained as an itamae, or sushi chef, at the California Sushi Academy and then helmed the sushi bar at Do Sushi in Memphis, Tennessee, for three years before launching a traveling workshop series on sushi making. Now settled in
Memphis, she is a kosher catering chef who has written two sushi cookbooks.

“I really wanted to focus on arming people with knowledge,” she says. “Had I had one of my books when I first started, oh, life would have been so much easier. Because I was in the middle of Mississippi with no Asian market and it’s like, where do you begin?”

A white plate is full of sushi and a spoon with sauce in it.
Pickled Okra Veggie Rolls

One myth she has worked hard to dispel is that sushi has to include raw fish. “It’s just a really interesting story that we tell ourselves as Americans,” she says. “I think that most of the things we know about sushi are American myths.” But she is careful to clarify: “It’s absolutely appropriate for us to take things and make them our own as long as we’re still honoring that culture and the thought behind where it came from.”

Her pickled okra roll does this with its namesake Southern ingredient that nevertheless celebrates what she calls “the spirit behind sushi,” being both and a local ingredient.

She encourages beginning sushi rollers to start with thicker futo-maki, literally “fat rolled sushi,” because it’s designed to be overfilled. “One of the hardest things for people to conceptualize when they’re making sushi the first time is restraining how much you put into a roll,” Baggett says. “So you tend to go a little heavier on
the ingredients, and the futo-maki is very forgiving.

Get the Pickled Okra Sushi Recipe

Marisa Baggett Sushi
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Pickled Okra Veggie Rolls

Sushi chef Marisa Baggett breaks sushi barriers with these beginner friendly pickled okra and crunchy veggie rolls.

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