Iconic culinarian, author, and entrepreneur Susan Feniger may be best known for her Modern Mexican concept, Border Grill restaurants, trucks, and catering, which she runs with her business partner of more than 40 years, Mary Sue Milliken. Now with locations in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Border Grill continues to serve street food-inspired regional Mexican cuisine with a commitment to sustainability and the best quality ingredients.
In 2018, Feniger and Milliken debuted BBQ Mexicana, a fast casual eatery now with four locations in Las Vegas; in late 2019 the chefs opened Socalo, a California canteen and Mexican Pub serving seasonal SoCal Mexican fare in Santa Monica; and most recently the duo launched Pacha Mamas, featuring seared skewers a la plancha and freshly composed ceviches, at Allegiant Stadium and T-Mobile Arena. Later this year, the duo will open two new restaurants, a fifth BBQ Mexicana location in Las Vegas plus a new restaurant at Living Out, an LGBTQ+ active senior community in Palm Springs, called Alice B.
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, she made a groundbreaking move in joining the nearly all-male kitchen at Chicago’s Le Perroquet, serendipitously meeting the only other woman in the kitchen—Mary Sue Milliken. After working for Wolfgang Puck at Ma Maison in L.A., Feniger went to the French Riviera to further hone her skills, and returned to open City Café with Milliken in 1981, forever changing L.A.’s culinary landscape by introducing eclectic dishes from around the world. That evolved into the larger CITY Restaurant in 1985—and the introduction of Border Grill as a simple spot for authentic home cooking and street foods of Mexico informed by the duo’s treks through the country. A James Beard Award that same year confirmed their impact on the nation’s cuisine.
Feniger and Milliken brought their innovative approaches to The Food Network with nearly 400 episodes of the “Too Hot Tamales” and “Tamales World Tour” series. They also were the original co-hosts of the popular food-centric radio show, KCRW’s “Good Food,” in L.A. Susan has co-authored six cookbooks, including Susan Feniger’s Street Food and competed on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters” in 2010.
In 2018, Feniger and Milliken were named the recipients of the fourth annual Julia Child Award from The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, marking the first women to be honored. The distinction complements additional accolades, including the Elizabeth Burns Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Restaurant Association in 2013; earned induction into Menu Masters Hall of Fame in 2014; and the 2018 Gold Award from the Los Angeles Times for culinary excellence and innovation in Southern California.
Feniger is an active member of the community, and currently sits on the boards of the Scleroderma Research Foundation, Los Angeles LGBT Center, and L.A. Tourism & Convention Board; works closely with Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, Share Our Strength, and Human Rights Campaign; and co-founded Chefs Collaborative.