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Mary Sue Milliken

Mary Sue Milliken and chef-partner Susan Feniger may be best known nationally for their mid-1990s hit Food Network show Too Hot Tamales, and the Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Las Vegas outposts of their innovative Mexican restaurant, Border Grill, but the pair has been a hit with Angelenos since the early 1980s.

Feninger and Milliken met in 1978 while working at Chicago’s Le Perroquet as the first women in the illustrious French restaurant’s kitchen, and both later trained in Paris. Together they opened City Café, in Los Angeles, in 1981, and expanded the vest-pocket-size place into restaurant CITY (1985 to 1994). Celebrating sustainable practices and flavors from around the world at CITY, the chefs homed in on Latin tastes after sharing meals with their Mexican staff and taking a cooking-intensive trip to Mexico, where they learned from home cooks, market vendors, and taco stands what authentic Mexican food was all about. The result: Mexican restaurants Ciudad (1998 to 2010) and Border Grill. And as food-truck culture evolved, they even launched a Border Grill Truck and the Border Grill Stop kiosk in 2010.

TV viewers who missed Milliken on Too Hot Tamales got to see her in action again as a “cheftestant” on Top Chef Masters, season three (she was first runner-up). She’s also made guest appearances on shows such as Iron Chef America, Oprah, Good Day LA, and Today.

Milliken and Feniger have co-authored cookbooks City Cuisine, Mesa Mexicana, Cantina, Cooking with Too Hot Tamales, and, for those who need to take it from square one, Mexican Cooking for Dummies.

An advocate for fighting childhood hunger, Milliken is on the board of directors of Share Our Strength, a national organization of nutrition and education programs.

  • Moveable Feast

    Grilled Salmon Wrapped in Collards with Tomato-Mint Salsa and Tzatziki

    Though we've adapted this recipe to use salmon fillets for ease and convenience, grilling a whole salmon, as Chefs Milliken and Feniger do, is also an option. In fact, fish…

  • Moveable Feast

    Lemon Soufflé with Rhubarb-Vanilla Compote

    This fluffy, light-as-air soufflé tastes like spring, with the brightness of lemon and rhubarb. The compote tastes best when it is served at room temperature. For more soufflé tips, check…

  • Moveable Feast

    Heirloom Bean Tostadas with Crispy Avocado

    Though we call for an assortment of canned beans for convenience, Chefs Feniger and Milliken used heirloom beans, such as scarlet runner beans, to dress up this recipe with color…

  • Moveable Feast

    Grilled Artichokes with Salsa Verde

    Mexican salsa verde (“green sauce”), which is often more mild than its red counterpart, gets its brilliant color from fresh green herbs such as parsley, chives, and oregano. It’s also…

  • Moveable Feast

    Rancho Bella Santé, Temecula CA (204)

    Season 2, episode 4 of Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking takes place in the southern mountains of Temecula, California.

  • Recipe

    Salsa Fresca

  • Recipe

    Citrus & Herb Marinated Chicken Tacos

    The marinade for the chicken is delicious: citrusy, herby, and fresh tasting.

  • Recipe

    Potato & Rajas Tacos

    Though cream may seem a little unexpected, a thick, slightly sour version plays an important role in Mexican cooking, adding a luxurious silkiness to special dishes. Here we use regular…

  • Recipe

    Tequila-Lime Sorbet

    This cool, refreshing dessert is creamier when made in an ice-cream maker, but you can make it granita style (more like an Italian ice) without any special equipment.

  • Recipe

    Border Guacamole