Speaking to the World
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Celebrated Chef, Author & Entrepreneur
Susan Feniger is a celebrated chef, author, and entrepreneur. Her professional collaboration with Mary Sue Milliken (CITY, Ciudad, Too Hot Tamales) has led to the groundbreaking Border Grill empire, with locations in Santa Monica, Downtown LA, LAX Airport’s Tom Bradley International Terminal, Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay, and a second outpost in Las Vegas at The Forum Shops opened in October 2014. In 2013, Susan welcomed her new solo venture, the beloved Mud Hen Tavern in Hollywood. Read More >
A classically trained graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, she was a trailblazer from the start, landing a job at Chicago’s famed Le Perroquet as one of the first women in the all-male kitchen. Following that, Feniger worked at Wolfgang Puck’s infamous Ma Maison in Los Angeles, and then further honed her culinary skills on the French Riviera. She opened City Café in 1981, which forever changed the culinary landscape of L.A. by offering eclectic dishes from around the world. This led to a much larger CITY restaurant in 1985, a pivotal year in which the tiny space was transformed into the first Border Grill, a “taco stand” serving authentic home cooking and street foods of Mexico. The strength of the brand also led to a line of prepared foods under the “Border Girls” name at Whole Food Markets, and the transformation of Ciudad (1998-2010) in downtown Los Angeles to encompass another Border Grill restaurant. In June 2013, Susan and Mary Sue were awarded the California Restaurant Association’s Elizabeth Burns Lifetime Achievement Award, joining the ranks of just a handful of other women who have made history in the restaurant industry. Most recently Susan and Mary Sue were inducted into the 2014 Menu Masters Hall of Fame.
A natural teacher, Susan has co-authored six cookbooks, including her latest, Susan Feniger’s Street Food. Susan is a veteran of 396 episodes of The Food Network’s popular Too Hot Tamales and Tamales World Tour series and competed on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters in 2010.
Susan shines a light on a number of worthwhile organizations and has been on the board of the Scleroderma Research Foundation for 18 years, the board of the L.A. LGBT Center for 4 years, and involved with Share our Strength and the Human Rights Campaign. She’s an active member of the culinary community, providing a leadership role in many organizations such as founding the Chefs Collaborative, sitting on the advisory board of the LA Sports & Entertainment Commission and serving as an active member of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs.
At the core, Susan’s love of food shines through and is intermingled with her love of interaction with customers and staff. She still takes time to teach cooking classes and work the Border Grill booth at the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market as time and travel allows. Her days are spent in the kitchen, writing and testing recipes, creating menus, managing busy businesses, researching shows, and creating new products. Most nights, you can still find her visiting with guests and working with staff at Mud Hen Tavern and Border Grill. Read Less ^
Susan is on the board of two organizations: the LA LGBT Center, and the Scleroderma Research Foundation. In addition, she was raised in a family that emphasized giving back (tutoring as a kid). How to involve giving back in your daily life and career, and teaching our team of young kids these values.
Other causes: St Josephs Mission, political fundraisers, Alex’s Lemonade, rescue puppy, Share our Strength, being an active member of the community, etc.
As one of the original celebrity chefs, Susan has been a remarkable example of breaking out of the mold. Not only as one of the first serious female chefs, but also, moving out of the kitchen and creating food as entertainment. From her partnership with Mary Sue Milliken, to her travels around the world, to opening restaurants in LA and Las Vegas, Susan is exceptional in that she is completely career driven, while still being extremely passionate about what she does. Read More >
Other points: TV/Media Career versus Restaurant Career, and how these two tie together. Mentoring young cooks, being a business woman/woman chef and how those things clash and yet go together, working with Julia Child. Read Less ^
How passion speaks…not only in fundraising, but also as an employer, employee, talking to investors. Passion is a powerful thing, and also very contagious. Utilizing your passion in a positive way for yourself and others.
Susan’s love of travel has been immensely important to her career. Bringing foods from one culture to another and educating diners on new foods. Researching other foods is best when you travel. Learning about other cultures through their food.
Working with Michael Eisner. Also, having a business partner for 35 years, versus taking on a solo venture. Not to mention, doing both at the same time!
Susan’s involvement with Seafood Watch (Monterey Bay Aquarium). Leading the charge in terms of buying local, supporting farmers, using fresh, seasonal ingredients. Understanding where your food comes from, raising awareness about how the food gets to your plate, and then applying the awareness to making responsible food choices.
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