By John Morton
Marisa Mangani had a burning desire for a life in the kitchen, then burned out on it all.
So, what did she do next? She designed kitchens!
In fact, the kitchen at Sun Garden Cafe in the Siesta Key Village was one of her projects, so naturally business owner Rick Monroe invited the now-author to hold a book-release party at his establishment. There, Mangani talked with book enthusiasts and read excerpts from her recently published works entitled Mise en Place — Memoir of a Girl Chef.
The meaning of the phrase is a culinary process in which ingredients are prepared and organized (as in a restaurant kitchen) before cooking.
The book takes the reader in many directions, as did Mangani’s career. The native of Hawaii cooked her way to the big-stage culinary spotlight of New Orleans, and then to several worldwide expos in the 1980s. All while fighting what was considered a male-driven landscape.
“Being a chef took a lot of drive for an insecure girl like me,” said the Sarasota resident. “I had to pull myself up through the ranks and, believe me, with that there came many adventures — good and bad.
“But working hard toward what you want despite the odds is my universal message, and that’s what this book presents.”
A glowing book review by Ian McNulty, food writer for The Times-Pacayune in New Orleans, said the following:
“Mise en Place is the rollicking memoir of Marisa Mangani, a talented chef who takes readers on her journey through the mostly men’s club of restaurant kitchens as she travels from Hawaii to Oregon, New Orleans, Canada, Australia, and Florida.
“Along the way she shares raw revelations: abuse at the hands of her stepfather, stories of love and loss, the pain of stuttering, a great passion for cuisine, and the heady sensations associated with food and motherhood.
“Not just a gifted chef, Mangani is a very accomplished writer who brings us into her world with brio and humor. She holds nothing back, as she describes her struggles for acceptance in her field and her stumbles and hard-won successes along the way.
“Mise en Place will appeal to all who love food and restaurants, but it’s also a vivid travelogue of the places the author has lived. Mangani has a beautifully hedonistic take on food, wine, and life — and her intense descriptions bring readers front and center into her world as she tries to carve out a living.
“Her details of the inner workings of restaurant kitchens are quite enlightening. If readers don’t already know how hard the hospitality business can be on anyone who works in it, not just chefs, but owners, managers, servers, and dishwashers, they will once they’ve walked in Mangani’s shoes.
“Mise en Place is a bold, new memoir that readers will find hard to put down. Mangani charts a deep dive through the roots of our modern American food obsession with a highly personal tale of memory, character, flavor, and place.”
Meanwhile, seeing as food flow is associated with the book’s title, Mangani said she food the concept so interesting that kitchen design landed on her radar. She’s particularly proud of the job she did at the kitchen-space-challenged Sun Garden.
“It’s always tricky in this kind of place, but I think I made it work. Had I not, I wouldn’t be here having this party,” she said with a laugh. “It’s often a logical formula but not always easy.”
Several of her guests are members of the same writing group. Jan Schuneman is one of them.
“I like the way she writes — very descriptive,” she said of Mangani. “I’ve never been to New Orleans, but now I feel I have. She described places and a lifestyle of which I do not know.”
Greenleaf is the book’s publisher. It is available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.