LA-area chef, TV personality, author also offers up great advice for aspiring new chefs
About 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.Susan Feniger and STREET have garnered significant media attention with feature stories in the Los Angeles Times, Gourmet and Angeleno in 2009 alone. Media interest is growing by leaps and bounds in 2010 with Susan set to be featured in "Chef vs City" on the Food Network, “Top Chef Masters” on Bravo and "O" Magazine.
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 in 1978, where she met Mary Sue. They were the first women to break into the all-male kitchen. Serious about food and ready for new territory, they struck out for France, Susan for the Riviera and Mary Sue for Paris, knowing even then they would work together again someday.
That day arrived in 1981 when they opened City Cafe on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. With only 39 seats out front and just enough room in back for a 24" x 24" prep table, a hot plate, and a hibachi grill in the alley, they quickly outgrew the little space and moved to a larger site. CITY Restaurant (1985-1994) changed the culinary landscape of L.A. forever with eclectic dishes from Thailand, India, and Mexico, as well as France, Italy, and their mothers' own recipe boxes. CITY wowed customers and critics alike.
In 1985, Mary Sue and Susan turned the cafe site into Border Grill, a "taco stand" serving authentic home cooking and street foods of Mexico. It too outgrew the tiny 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 1998, the partners opened Ciudad in Downtown Los Angeles, presenting the bold and seductive flavors of the Latin world, from Havana to Buenos Aires to Barcelona. In 1999, the Border Grill concept grew to encompass another restaurant located at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. In the process, two gringas from the Midwest became the most respected authorities in Latin cuisine.
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 Food Network (1995-1999), and has had several homes on the radio dial in Los Angeles, including KCRW, KFWB, and KFI. A prolific writer, Susan co-authored five cookbooks with Mary Sue: City Cuisine, Mesa Mexicana, Cantina, Cooking with Too Hot Tamales, and Mexican Cooking for Dummies. In 2001, the dishes of Border Grill and Ciudad "starred" in Samuel Goldwyn's feature film, "Tortilla Soup." Susan and Mary Sue also have a line of prepared foods under their "Border Girls" brand at Whole Foods Markets and a line of signature pepper mills manufactured by Vic Firth.
Susan is an active member of the community, providing a leadership role in many culinary 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 on the advisory board of the LA Sports & Entertainment Commission. 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. In 1988, Susan helped start the Scleroderma Research Foundation’s flagship fundraising event, Cool Comedy - Hot Cuisine, featuring several courses of epicurean delights and live performances by such stellar comedians as Robin Williams, Ellen DeGeneres, Jay Leno, Rosie O'Donnell, Bob Saget, Garry Shandling, Lily Tomlin, Sarah Silverman and John Mayer.
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. STREET was named one of the “Top Ten Lesbian-Owned Companies” by Curve magazine.
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 Farmer's 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, Border Grill or Ciudad. After more than thirty years of being a chef and restaurant owner, Susan is still pushing the borders.
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Renowned street food queen’s latest book helps you make exotic dishes in your own kitchen