"Well, word got out around town, and it wasn’t long before sushi was on our regular menu. I made it with whatever I could get, so it wasn't traditional, but people loved it. Then one day a guy called in to reserve a table for twelve. Our team got everything together, and then in walks this American guy, followed by 11 Japanese men who were in the country to help get a Toyota plant started. I flipped out. I looked at my employees, said, ‘I’ll be back in a second’, reached over and grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniels, ran to the bathroom, and locked myself in.’ I said, ‘I’m not coming out. I’m not coming out of the bathroom. This is it. Never again.’ The employees started knocking on the door and saying, ‘Marisa, you have to come out! They’ve ordered so much stuff; we have to get this order ready!’ They had to threaten to call my parents to get me out of there. I was on the verge of tears, but the Japanese group seemed to really like everything we served. I think they got a kick out of it because here was this little place out in the middle of nowhere serving sushi. They took pictures of everything and they ate it all. At the end of the night I made a vow to myself. I said, ‘Never again do I want to feel that I have to hide from somebody because I don’t know what I’m doing.’ I started doing research and found a school in California where I could learn to become a professional sushi chef. Everybody thought I was crazy, but I went anyway, and a few months later, I became the first African-American woman to graduate from the school.
"I've been in Memphis for 13 years now, specializing in teaching in-home sushi classes, doing demonstrations and talks about sushi, and making sushi for events. I’m kind of a traveling sushi chef. Because I embraced Judaism a few years ago, I also do a lot of events in the Jewish community. And I’ve written two sushi cookbooks.
"If you were to talk to my parents, I think they would say that I’ve always been kind of ‘out there.’ That’s pretty much the story of my life. I get really interested in something and it haunts me to the point where I have to find out all about it; I have to do it. If I don’t, it just keeps popping up everywhere."