Chef Susan Feniger - AmericaNowNews.com

Chef Susan Feniger

With the opening of Susan Feniger's STREET in 2009, the celebrated chef launched the first solo venture of her 30-year career.  Rather than rest on the laurels of her continuing professional collaboration with Mary Sue Milliken (Border Grill, CITY, Ciudad, Too Hot Tamales), Feniger's dream of creating a unique restaurant dedicated to the authentic flavors of global bar food influenced by her travels and experiences eating on the street. The bold move came as a result of Feniger's desire to break out of the Latin kitchen that launched her to prominence.

Feniger has been a trailblazer from the start. A classically trained graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, she landed a job in the kitchen of Chicago's famed Le Perroquet and became one of the first women to break into the all-male kitchen. Following that, she moved out west to the kitchen of Wolfgang Puck at the infamous Ma Maison, where she got her first dose of Hollywood.  From there, Feniger ventured to the South of France, where she further honed her culinary skills on the Riviera.

With the opening of City Cafe on Melrose Avenue in 1981, Feniger forever changed the culinary landscape of L.A. with eclectic dishes from Thailand, India, Mexico, France, Italy and her mother's own recipe boxes. Customers were served in a tiny 39-seat space with just enough room in back for a 24" x 24" prep table, a hot plate, and a hibachi grill in the alley.

Demand for the extraordinary cuisine was so great that it led to the establishment of the much larger CITY restaurant in 1985, a pivotal year in which the tiny café space was transformed into the first Border Grill, a "taco stand" serving authentic home cooking and street foods of Mexico. It too outgrew the small space, and in 1990 moved to its current home on 4th Street in Santa Monica where it now serves upscale, modern Mexican food in an urban cantina setting. In 1999, the Border Grill concept grew to encompass another restaurant located at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The strength of the brand led to a line of prepared foods under the "Border Girls" name at Whole Foods Markets.

With the opening of Ciudad in downtown Los Angeles in 1998, Feniger's culinary adventures continued with the bold and seductive flavors of the Latin world, from Havana to Buenos Aires to Barcelona. Ciudad was later transformed in 2010 to Border Grill, as the concept continued to expand and find success. The Border Grill Trucks started rolling in 2010, and have become popular fixtures on the streets of Los Angeles, at private events, festivals and more, and a Border Grill at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX is scheduled to open in mid-September 2013. With the establishment of STREET in 2009, Feniger fulfilled her desire to expand her culinary horizons past Latin cultures, returning to the types of cuisine that initially inspired her as a chef.

A natural teacher, Susan shares her passion for food through many different avenues of media. Her television career began in 1993, when she and Mary Sue were two of sixteen chefs invited to cook with the legendary Julia Child in her PBS series "Cooking with Master Chefs." Susan is a veteran of 396 episodes of the popular "Too Hot Tamales" and "Tamales World Tour" series with The Food Network (1995-1999). She has made numerous appearances on "CBS This Morning," "The Talk," "The Chew," "The Today Show," and more, and has had several homes on the radio dial in Los Angeles, including KCRW, KFWB and KFI.  In 2001, the dishes of Border Grill and Ciudad "starred" in Samuel Goldwyn's feature film, "Tortilla Soup."  Susan competed on the second season of Bravo's "Top Chef Masters" in 2010 and raised $32,500 for The Scleroderma Research Foundation, of which she's a founding board member.

A prolific writer, Susan has co-authored six cookbooks: City Cuisine, Mesa Mexicana, Cantina, Cooking with Too Hot Tamales and Mexican Cooking for Dummies.  Her latest book, "Susan Feniger's Street Food," was released in July 2012 and includes 83 of her favorite recipes, inspired by street food carts from around the world.  

Susan is an active member of the culinary community, providing a leadership role in many associations, charities, and organizations. She played a founding role in Chefs Collaborative and is an active member of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. She is also in the advisory board of the LA Sports & Entertainment Commission.

Throughout her career, Susan has been committed to green principles by shopping organic at farmers' markets, recycling and using sustainable materials. Nowhere is that more true than with STREET, where Feniger insisted on the use of recycled materials to build her dream venture.

In addition, Susan has been on the board of the Scleroderma Research Foundation for 17 years, spearheading a mission to find a cure for scleroderma, a life-threatening and degenerative illness, by funding and facilitating the most promising, highest quality research, as well as placing the disease and the need for a cure in the public eye. In 1988, Susan helped start the Scleroderma Research Foundation's flagship fundraising event, Cool Comedy – Hot Cuisine. The annual gala features several courses of epicurean delights and attracts some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry. Susan supports Share our Strength in its fight to end hunger and poverty in the United States and abroad by mobilizing industries and individuals and creating community wealth to promote lasting change.

Susan is a proud member of the gay and lesbian community as well, supporting efforts to fight for equality and empowerment through various organizations like the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, where Susan is a member of the board. The Center provides many services, including free and low-cost medical care, legal and education services, a transitional living program for youth who have been kicked out of their homes, and life-enriching programs for seniors. Susan is also involved with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America's largest gay and lesbian organization. HRC provides a natural, bipartisan voice on gay and lesbian issues, lobbying Congress, mobilizing grassroots action, and increasing public understanding through education and communication. Additionally, Susan has supported over the years Outfest, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to build bridges among filmmakers, audiences, and the entertainment industry through the exhibition of high-quality gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender themed films.

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 STREET and Border Grill. In June 7, 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. After more than thirty years of being a chef and restaurant owner, Susan is still pushing the border. One thing is certain, the success of STREET in Los Angeles will not be the final stop on the culinary adventure at the heart of Susan Feniger's life's work.

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  • Ask Chef Feniger!

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