Restaurant month continues with a special Q&A from two famous chefs, authors, and TV personalities. Chefs Susan Feniger (seen below with our Kitchen Kids at Border Grill) and Mary Sue Milliken share their favorite foods growing up, what excites them about working in a restaurant, tips on what to order next time you visit Border Grill and more in this delicious Q&A!
On becoming a chef:
Q. Did you always want to be a chef?
Chef Susan: You know what, I don’t know if I always wanted to be a chef, but from the time I was a young kid I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my mom, licking the paddles from making fudge. I certainly loved hanging with her in the kitchen. I was actually studying economics and business in college, and I had finished my requirements. For my last year I convinced my advisor to let me do an independent study at the Culinary Institute of America in New York.
Chef Mary Sue: Yes! I realized I love food and working with my hands when I was about 12, tried working in a donut shop and pizza parlor in high school and at 16, met a professional chef who suggested I go to professional chef training. So I finished high school early and started chef school when I was 17.
Q. What were your favorite foods to cook and eat as a kid?
Chef Susan: As a kid I loved frozen green beans, cooked up with butter and salt. I loved helping my mom make fried chicken, too! What I loved most was when she would fry the skin separately as a little snack!
Chef Mary Sue: I loved cooking everything. I remember cooking a 6 course dinner for my aunt and uncle's 25th wedding anniversary when I was 13. The dessert was flaming cherries jubilee.
Q. What inspired you to become a chef?
Chef Susan: Honestly I think my mom was a big inspiration because she was a great cook. But my first job in high school was at Smith’s Cafeteria, and there was a woman who ran the kitchen who was like a drill sergeant! But I really loved the camaraderie of it all.
Q. What was your first job in the restaurant industry? How did you move up?
Chef Mary Sue: I worked at Dawn Donut shop when I was 14. I rode my bike to the shop at 4 am every morning and filled donuts, sugared and iced them, then changed into my dress to serve them to morning commuters. Then I'd ride my bike to school by 8am (every morning mon-fri).
On working in a restaurant:
Q. What is the most exciting thing about working in a restaurant?
Chef Mary Sue: You never know when you might get slammed with a rush of diners and you need to be ready for anything. It's exciting to finish a hard shift when you were able to keep up the quality and pace.
Q. What's your favorite restaurant tip to try at home?
Chef Susan: Sharpening your knife! Or making a hollandaise.
Q. What are important qualities for your team to have?
Chef Mary Sue: Everybody watches everybody else's back: teamwork! Open communication and pleasant attitudes.
Q. What is the key to success in your restaurant?
Chef Mary Sue: We are careful to hire the right people who fit in with our commitment to great food and great service.
About Border Grill:
Q. What’s one thing you’d really like us to share about Border Grill?
Chef Susan: Border Grill is somewhere you can go by yourself or with a big party. It’s warm and comfortable, and the food is delish! Keep your eye open on our website for cooking classes that Mary Sue and I do about four times a year!
Chef Mary Sue: Border Grill cares about our customers and about our planet- our menu is constantly evolving and we use only sustainable seafood, hormone and antibiotic free meats, organic rice and beans!
Q. What's are some of your favorite menu items at Border Grill?
Chef Susan: I love the Peruvian Ceviche and the Rajas Tacos!
Chef Mary Sue: I love our plant based, meatless Mondays specials like heirloom bean tostada & potato rajas chile relleno.
Q. What advice would you share with aspiring young chefs?
Chef Susan: Although you have to work really hard and long hours, the great thing is that you get to wear a uniform all the time (haha!) and create a second family where you’re not solitary but constantly interacting with and meeting new people.
Chef Mary Sue: Get into your kitchen and start playing around! Then find a restaurant where you can intern to see if you really like the job.
Raddish is a cooking club for kids! Created with a mission of bringing families together in the kitchen and at the table, our monthly thematic cooking kits take the guesswork out of cooking with kids while creating delicious kitchen memories along the way. Raddish is designed by a team of educators and chefs who believe the kitchen classroom is the tastiest place to learn. Join our membership today!