Chef Susan Feniger ’77, Bringing Mexican Food to the Masses


CIA Graduate Susan Feniger '77, Chef, Author, and Entrepreneur
“I wanted to create that kind of neighborhood place that feels easygoing and warm, where you can share a beer with friends, hang out, and have some great food!” —CIA Graduate Susan Feniger ’77, Chef, Author, and Entrepreneur

CIA Alumni Bio

Susan Feniger is the co-chef and co-owner of the Border Grill empire in collaboration with longtime business partner Mary Sue Milliken, with three locations in the Los Angeles area, one in Las Vegas, and one very busy Border Grill Food truck. She is a prolific cookbook writer with six titles in publication. Her latest book, Susan Feniger’s Street Food: Irresistibly Crispy, Creamy, Crunchy, Spicy, Sticky, Sweet Recipes, debuted in 2012.

Inspiration From Home

Susan grew up in Ottawa Hills, OH. “I was totally inspired by my mom,” says Susan. “She’s a fantastic cook and makes wonderful brisket, noodle pudding, and homemade fudge.” While studying business and economics at Pitzer College, Susan worked at the school cafeteria. Her supervisor, a former Army cook, recognized Susan’s affinity for the kitchen and suggested culinary school. She convinced her economics professor to let her complete her degree by doing an independent study at Mexican cuisine,” says Susan.

Solo Project

In 2009, Feniger opened her first solo project, Street. The multi-ethnic eatery featured street foods from around the world. “There’s a cultural connection found on the street,” Susan explains. “I connect that way to food and to the people making it.” In 2013, Street became Mud Hen Tavern, a neighborhood bar and restaurant. “When I was a little kid my dad and I would go to Mud Hens baseball games in Toledo, OH,” says Susan. “Afterwards we’d go to a bar called Andre’s for fried bologna sandwiches. I wanted to create that kind of neighborhood place that feels easygoing and warm, where you can share a beer with friends, hang out, and have some great food!” Mud Hen Tavern closed in 2016.

Philanthropy

Susan serves on the board of the Scleroderma Research Foundation and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, and is involved with Share our Strength and the Human Rights Campaign. She’s an active member of the culinary community and is a founding member of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. In 2013, Susan and Mary Sue were awarded the Elizabeth Burns Lifetime Achievement Award by the California Restaurant Association. In 2014, the two were inducted into the Nation’s Restaurant News MenuMasters Hall of Fame. In April 2015, Susan received the Augie Award at The Culinary Institute of America’s Leadership Awards Celebrating Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. In 2018, Susan and Mary Sue received the Julia Child Award from the Julia Child Foundation

Chef Susan Feniger majored in culinary arts at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. She is a chef, author, TV personality, and the owner and partner of the Border Grill restaurants based in Los Angeles, CA.