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 street food has found instant success with foodies and media alike. 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. Serious about food and ready for new territory, she ventured to 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, and Mexico, as well as France, Italy, and her mothers’ own recipe boxes 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 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 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 a line of prepared foods under the “Border Girls” name at Whole Foods Markets.
With the opening of Ciudad in downtown Los Angeles in 1991, Feniger’s culinary adventure continued with the bold and seductive flavors of the Latin world, from Havana to Buenos Aires to Barcelona. With the establishment of STREET in 2009, Feniger fulfilled her desire to expand her culinary horizons past Latin cultures.
A natural teacher, Susan shares her passion for food through many 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 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 has co-authored five cookbooks: 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 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 on 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, by 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 also 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.
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 also 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 national, bipartisan voice on gay and lesbian issues, lobbying Congress, mobilizing grassroots action, and increasing public understanding through education and communication. Additionally, Susan supports 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 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.
Kajsa started cooking at a young age and has spent the past 20 years exploring and refining her skills into the unique pinches-and-handfuls approach that defines her dynamic style.
As a teenager, Kajsa Alger snuck into the kitchen of CITY restaurant to begin an informal apprenticeship with two of the most respected women chefs in the world. She made herself indispensible and was soon hired at CITY and joined the team at Border Grill in Santa Monica in 1990.
Kajsa then moved on to continue learning and working with Judy Rogers at the legendary Zuni Café in San Francisco, David Kinch at the highly acclaimed Restaurant Sent Sovi, and the northwest favorite, Carlyle Restaurant & Bar in Portland, Oregon. Later, she returned to Los Angeles and the Border Grill company to head up kitchen operations as Corporate Chef for their 5 restaurants, and eventually landed with their downtown Los Angeles restaurant, Ciudad, where she could showcase her talents in a collection of menus that highlight foods from around the Latin world.
A fervent traveler, she considers her cooking a storytelling skill where she reflects in her food a sense of the memories, richness, and diversity of flavors she has sampled throughout the world. Kajsa is a firm believer that what makes a meal something extraordinary is that the food comes from the heart. It enriches our experiences with each other so that we become more open and less afraid to try new cuisines.
Kajsa’s long association with Susan, her understanding of operational and financial systems, and creative passion for simple, colloquial foods make her a perfect compliment for STREET.
The process of perfecting the menu for STREET involved extensive shopping in Southern California’s vast expanse of ethnic markets and testing recipes for months alongside Feniger in her home kitchen. It is a collaboration that has seen Kajsa’s rightful rise from protégé to partner.