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Marisa Mangani
Author, Contributor
Mise en Place--Memoir of a Girl Chef

Adult; Memoir; (Market)

Marisa’s comfort zone is deep inside the restaurant kitchen alongside its dysfunctional characters and the abundance of booze and drugs. But in the nineteen-seventies, girls baked or made salads. The heat and machismo of the hot line was not a place for a girl with a passion for food and the drive to be the best. From Hawaii, to Portland and New Orleans, she struggles with her own shyness and the limited expectations for the only female in the kitchen. She finally becomes Chef, successfully managing high-volume restaurants at three World’s Fairs, but something is missing. Still searching, as a burnt-out chef, she embarks on another male-dominated career. Mise en Place —Memoir of a Girl Chef is a story about determination to succeed in the face of personal handicap and cultural norms.

Quarter Finalist

Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.50 out of 10


Plot/Idea: Marisa Mangani takes readers along with her on the journey of finding her purpose and standing up for her dreams in an eye-opening and refreshingly honest memoir.

Prose: Mangani's candid, fluid, and direct prose captivates readers from the very first line.

Originality: Mise en Place offers a unique, insider's perspective on working in a male-dominated restaurant business as a female chef. Mangani's career takes her to a variety of vividly conveyed cities and restaurants while offering an emotional chronicle of her personal growth. 

Character/Execution: Mangani has a clear handle on storytelling and fills her memoir with detailed and authentic descriptions of the many individuals who influence her personal and professional life.

Blurb: An excellent read for aspiring entrepreneurs trying to pave their own path.





Date Submitted: October 05, 2022

Kitchen designer and seasoned chef Mangani details her winding road from Hawaii to Florida, and from grueling work to a life of balance, an achievement she expresses moving gratitude for while inviting readers into her world today, of a daughter, a healthy male partner, and— miraculously —full two-day weekends off. Starting with her childhood in Hawaii, she threads her relationship with food throughout significant life events: her efforts to get around eating her grandmother’s lima beans “frozen from a box,” her love of open-air lanai restaurants, her burgeoning passion for food—despite a humble upbringing, she became a full-fledged “food snob” at age six. That passion helped Mangani navigate her struggles to fit in, eventually leading to find her place in kitchens around the United States—from Hawaii, to Portland, to New Orleans.

Frankly recounting her efforts to climb the ranks of the restaurant world she knew might see her as “some stuttering and awkwardly curvaceous girl,” Mangani reveals how even as her career soared in New Orleans her culinary dreams are shadowed at times by toxic relationships that carry her from restaurant to restaurant. Her storytelling exemplifies the grit and determination it takes to succeed—and to prioritize what matters. She went on to manage multiple kitchens at World Expositions across the globe before settling in Florida to start a family. There she took on a new career in kitchen design, entered therapy, started writing, and set her sights on happier, healthier times, including touchingly recounted family rituals with her daughter, like their shared love of sitting together eating an artichoke leaf by leaf until they reach the “center jewel.”

Mangani’s stories will elicit a range of emotions from sympathy to laughter, and her love for food is infectious, as her descriptions bring it to life, from the frozen lima beans of her youth to wonders like chilled melon soup with pink peppercorn crème fraiche.

Takeaway: An inspiring memoir of food love, success as a chef, and finding balance in life.

Great for fans of: Kwame Onwuachi’s Notes From a Young Black Chef, Marcus Samuelsson’s Yes, Chef.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A