Chef Mary Sue Milliken of Border Grill - Biography

Santa Monica , CA

November 2011

Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger first crossed paths in 1978 at Chicago's distinguished Le Perroquet, as the first women ever to work in the prestigious kitchen. Feniger went on to California to work with Wolfgang Puck at Ma Maison. They met again in France where Milliken worked at Restaurant d'Olympe in Paris, and Feniger at L'Oasis, a three-star restaurant on the French Riviera. They knew even then they would work together some day.



Upon their reunion in Los Angeles in 1981, the two opened the tiny City Cafe on Melrose Avenue with space only a hotplate in the kitchen which they quickly outgrew. Their next endeavor, CITY, served eclectic cuisine seasoned by their formal training and influenced by travels to Thailand, India, Mexico, and other exotic locales. Its immediate success enabled the two to follow up with Border Grill first in Santa Monica then Las Vegas, serving upscale, modern Mexican food in a hip, urban cantina setting. It was named one of the best restaurants in America by Gourmet Magazine and was honored with Restaurants & Institutions magazine's prestigious IVY Award in 1997. The pair now also own The Border Grill Truck, and Susan Feniger has her first solo venture, Susan Feniger’s Street.



They due are also television veterans, starring in almost 400 episodes of Food Network’s popular “Too Hot Tamales” and “Tamales World Tour” series. Since 1996, they have had several homes on the radio dial in Los Angeles, including KCRW, KFWB and KFI. Milliken and Feniger are active board members of many culinary associations. They played a founding role in Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, which fosters the careers of women in restaurants, and Chef's Collaborative, which advocates the use of sustainably grown products in the food service industry. They contribute real leadership and time to numerous charities. And in 1988, they were the first women ever to receive the California Restaurant Writer's prestigious "Chef of the Year" award. And in 1993, they were two of only sixteen Chefs, worldwide, to be invited to cook with the legendary Julia Child in her PBS series "Home Cooking with Master Chefs."