Susan Feniger at 2013 LA Times Festival of Books
|Occupation||Chef, restaurateur, author|
|Known for||Too Hot Tamales|
Susan Feniger is an American chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, and radio and TV personality. She is known for starring in the cooking show Too Hot Tamales on the Food Network and opening several influential restaurants in Los Angeles. She has been awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the California Restaurant Association.
After working together in Chicago and Paris, Feniger and her longtime collaborator, Mary Sue Milliken, settled in Los Angeles where they founded City Cafe in 1981. They eventually expanded to a larger space on La Brea Blvd. and renamed the establishment City Restaurant. In 1985, they opened the Mexican restaurant Border Grill in the original City Cafe space, before moving it to Santa Monica in 1990. The restaurant later expanded to Pasadena (closed) and the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas. Broadening their culinary horizons Feniger and her partner opened the Latin flavor Ciudad in Los Angeles in 1998. The success of the three restaurants has often led Feniger and Milliken to be recognized for changing Los Angeles's culinary landscape. Feniger has been influenced by the food and culture of various nations, such as India, France, and Mexico.
In April 2009, Feniger opened her first solo project: Street, a multi-ethnic eatery of "street food" in Hollywood. Sample dishes include millet puffs, paani puri, Massamum chicken curry, dumplings, Egyptian-style baked fish and peanut butter cookies for dessert.
In December 2013, Feniger opened Mud Hen Tavern with Executive Chef and Partner Kajsa Alger, a neighborhood bar and restaurant, which offers seasonal, gourmet pub and comfort food in a warm and relaxed setting. The bar team in partnership with mixology consultant Tricia Carr (formerly Alley), curated a beverage program that offers a vibrant and accessible selection of international wines, local craft beers and artisanal cocktails that complement Mud Hen Tavern’s cuisine.
“I’ve always wanted to open a casual neighborhood spot, and this side of town was in need of a bar and restaurant that just serves really great food and drinks that people can come back for every day. I have fond childhood memories of going to baseball games with my dad in Toledo, Ohio to watch The Mud Hens play. Afterwards, we’d always wander over to the local bar Andre’s to get sandwiches and argue about the best plays and worst errors of the game with the neighbors,” said Susan. “Kajsa and I are re-creating that homey feeling of a lively gathering place for this area with Mud Hen Tavern. We’ve built a name for STREET, and it’s still going to live on in lots of exciting ways, including new locations and a robust catering business.”
Publishing, television, and film
In collaboration with Milliken and others, Feniger has published five cookbooks: City Cuisine (1989), Mesa Mexicana (1994), Cantina: The Best of Casual Mexican Cooking (Casual Cuisines of the World) (1996), Cooking with Too Hot Tamales (1997) and Mexican Cooking for Dummies (1999/2002).
Feniger is also a TV personality, starring with Milliken in 396 episodes of the popular Too Hot Tamales and Tamales World Tour on the Food Network in the 1990s. Prior to the shows on the Food Network, in 1993 Feniger and Milliken appeared with Julia Child in her PBS series Cooking with Master Chefs. Feniger has also appeared on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and prepared with Milliken the food that was served in the 2001 movie, Tortilla Soup.
Most recently, Feniger appeared on the second season of Top Chef Masters that aired in 2010. She was the last female chef in the competition, eliminated following a challenge to create a dish fit for the gods. Feniger's creation for Aphrodite was Kaya toast served with a soy-glazed egg and coconut jam. She raised $32,500 for The Scleroderma Research Foundation. "It's an honor to be on that show and have Schleroderma [sic] Research Foundation out there in the public eye," she said in an interview with SlashFood. "I've gotten so many email messages and Facebook messages from all over the country. So for me, I'm totally the winner in this."
In 2011, Feniger was in talks with ABC to develop a sitcom based on the lives of her and Milliken. And in October 2014 she appeared as a contestant in the "Superstar Sabotage" tournament of Cutthroat Kitchen.
In 2013, Feniger was awarded the Elizabeth Burns Lifetime Achievement Award by the California Restaurant Association.
Feniger is from Toledo, Ohio, and is the daughter of Ruth Alice and Yale Feniger. She was raised in a Jewish home. Feniger graduated from Pitzer College in 1976. She was a founding board member of the Scleroderma Research Foundation and has served on the organization's board since 1988.
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