Three beloved Los Angeles chefs will operate mini-cafés, focusing on global cuisine with local ingredients
(l-r) Chefs Kajsa Alger, Mary Sue Milliken, and Susan Feniger. Photo courtesy of Bon Appétit. Photography by Bart Nagel.
SAN MARINO, Calif.—Those who love Border Grill’s authentic, modern Mexican cuisine created by celebrated chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken will be able to enjoy it in an unexpected new location starting on Nov. 2: the main café at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Additionally, fans of Kajsa Alger’s accessible global fare featured at her Blue Window locations in Los Angeles no doubt will be delighted to find her serving dumplings and noodles in the tea shop at The Huntington’s spectacular Chinese Garden.
“We see the introduction of world-class dining at The Huntington as a natural extension of who and what we are,” said Laura Skandera Trombley, Huntington President. “We are home to a 6,500-volume historic cookbook collection, including the first known printed cookbook—dating to 1475. Specially prepared good food beautifully matches our commitment to authenticity, quality, and culture. And, for that reason, we couldn’t be more excited to have Susan, Mary Sue, and Kajsa joining us at this time.”
The three Los Angeles chefs, whose names are synonymous with culinary innovation, will bring to The Huntington a focus on L.A.’s diverse cuisine, with support from Bon Appétit Management Co. In addition to creating exciting new menus, all three will collaborate with The Huntington and Bon Appétit on a series of cooking classes, "dinner salons” with special guests, and catering for community-focused and private events.
“We’re excited to offer a variety of new culinary options from Border Grill and Blue Window at The Huntington,” said Feniger (who also cofounded Blue Window with Alger). “In the heart of the San Gabriel Valley, surrounded by breathtaking botanical gardens, art collections, and renowned library holdings, and serving flavorful foods that reflect Southern California’s growing multi-cultural population, we hope to transform The Huntington into a place that inspires all the senses!”
Beginning Nov. 2, at the mini–Border Grill in the main café (newly renamed 1919), Feniger and Milliken will serve an array of dishes based on their iconic Border Grill restaurants. The menu will include their famous tacos on handmade corn tortillas with organic rice and beans, quesadillas, ceviche, and seasonal aguas frescas. Also at the café’s small-plates bar, Alger will oversee the creation of freshly made sushi, using seafood sourced according to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guidelines.
On Nov. 9, at the Chinese Garden’s Freshwater Dumpling and Noodle House, Alger and Feniger will begin offering dishes drawn from the many regions of China (as well as from Nepal and Mongolia). In the same way that the surrounding garden reflects the shift of seasons and harmonious balance, their food will shift through the landscape of China to explore diverse features and elements of surprise. "The Huntington has always been this little oasis within the city, a place where you can come and feel tranquil among the chaos,” said Alger. “We’re thrilled to be at the center of the Chinese Garden and to offer the simple dishes and flavors that I grew up with, spanning the regions of China. We're excited to work with Bon Appétit Management to create a place where the food is as special as our surroundings."
On Nov. 12 at the Patio Grill adjacent to The Huntington’s Shakespeare Garden, weekend visitors will get a chance to indulge in Feniger’s and Milliken’s global-meets-local flavors without leaving The Huntington. The rotating seasonal menus will utilize local and organic ingredients and draw from the rich culinary heritage of Los Angeles’ many communities—from Mediterranean fritters and Greek salads to Caribbean shrimp skewers, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and much more.
The chefs’ involvement with The Huntington extends beyond the kitchen doors. Starting in Jan. 2017, they will host special cooking classes for both Huntington members and the public, as well as launch a series of dinner salons featuring other well-known chefs and cookbook authors. Attendees will be able to enjoy a special prix-fixe meal inspired by the visiting luminaries and learn more about their areas of specialty through informal conversations led by Feniger, Milliken, and Alger.
(See below for the opening dates of all five dining venues at The Huntington).
About Susan Feniger
Celebrated chef, author, and entrepreneur Susan Feniger’s professional collaboration with Mary Sue Milliken (CITY, Ciudad, Too Hot Tamales) has led to the groundbreaking Border Grill empire (Los Angeles, Los Angeles International Airport, and Las Vegas). Her new venture, Blue Window, with Kajsa Alger, opened at LAX in 2016. A classically trained graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, she was a trailblazer from the start, landing a job at Chicago’s famed Le Perroquet as one of the first women in the all-male kitchen. Following that, Feniger worked at Wolfgang Puck’s infamous Ma Maison in Los Angeles, and then further honed her culinary skills on the French Riviera. She opened City Café in 1981, which forever changed the culinary landscape of L.A. by offering eclectic dishes from around the world. This led to a much larger CITY restaurant in 1985, a pivotal year in which the tiny space was transformed into the first Border Grill, a “taco stand” serving authentic home cooking and street foods of Mexico. She then partnered with Kajsa Alger to launch STREET, Mud Hen Tavern, and Blue Window. Feniger has co-authored six cookbooks, including her latest, Susan Feniger’s Street Food. She is a veteran of 396 episodes of The Food Network’s popular Too Hot Tamales and Tamales World Tour series and competed on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters in 2010. Feniger shines a light on a number of worthwhile organizations and has been on the board of the Scleroderma Research Foundation for 25 years, the board of the L.A. LGBT Center for nine years, and is also involved with Share our Strength and the Human Rights Campaign. She’s an active member of the culinary community, providing a leadership role in many organizations. In June 2013, she and Mary Sue Milliken were awarded the California Restaurant Association’s Elizabeth Burns Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2014, they were inducted into the 2014 Menu Masters Hall of Fame.
About Mary Sue Milliken
A pioneer of world cuisine since the creation of City Café and CITY Restaurant in Los Angeles in the 1980s, Mary Sue Milliken is most notably recognized as a preeminent ambassador of modern Mexican cuisine with her Border Grill Restaurants (Downtown Los Angeles, LAX, Las Vegas) and Trucks. In 2014, she and longtime business partner Susan Feniger opened a second location in Las Vegas at The Forum Shops at Caesars. After becoming the first female chef at Chicago's Le Perroquet in 1978, Milliken went on to refine her skills in Paris at Restaurant D’Olympe. In 1993, she joined a handful of progressive colleagues to found Women Chefs & Restaurateurs. Milliken has co-authored five cookbooks, co-starred in nearly 400 episodes of the Food Network’s Too Hot Tamales, and co-hosted a food centered radio show for over a decade in Los Angeles. She competed on season three of Bravo's Top Chef Masters, making it to the finale and winning $40,000 for her charity, Share Our Strength, and its mission to end childhood hunger in America. Milliken has served as a fundraiser, board member, and advocate of Share Our Strength since 1987 and also serves on the Board of Trustees for the James Beard Foundation. She and Feniger received the California Restaurant Association’s Lifetime Achievement award in 2013, and in 2014 they were welcomed into the Menu Masters Hall of Fame.
About Kajsa Alger
Kajsa Alger [pronounced Sasha AL-jur] is executive chef and co-owner of Blue Window, a take-out window changing the face of what we call “fast food” by offering authentic global flavors, sustainably sourced ingredients, and environmentally friendly practices. Alger started in small kitchens in Los Angeles, Puerto Rico, and Europe and ended up at CITY restaurant in the late 1980s in an informal apprenticeship with Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken that would turn into a lifelong friendship and eventual partnership. In between, she worked with Judy Rogers at San Francisco’s legendary Zuni Café and David Kinch (of Manresa) at the highly acclaimed Restaurant Sent Sovi. She was the executive chef of Carlyle Restaurant in Portland, Ore., and the Starfish Grill on Orcas Island in Washington before returning to California and the Border Grill Group once again in the capacity of corporate chef, then moved on to partner with Susan Feniger at STREET, Mud Hen Tavern, and Blue Window. She co-authored the cookbook Susan Feniger’s Street Food, drawing from her Asian-American upbringing, frequent travels, and vast knowledge of spices and globally influenced cuisine. Alger is passionate about developing plant-based cuisine that reaches a lower price point demographic, and in her teaching and youth outreach, she focuses on exploring and sharing those foods while staying connected to community.
Schedule of Openings:
The venues close Nov. 1, reopening on a rolling schedule as follows:
Nov. 2: 1919, the main café, and the Red Car coffee shop
Nov. 9: Freshwater Dumpling and Noodle House in the Chinese Garden
Nov. 12: The Patio Grill adjacent to the Shakespeare Garden (weekends only)
Nov. 16: Rose Garden Tea Room (details forthcoming)
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Susan Turner-Lowe, 626-405-2147, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Wagner, 323-461-1011, email@example.com
About The Huntington
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens is a collections-based research and educational institution serving scholars and the general public. More information about The Huntington can be found at huntington.org
The Huntington is located at 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino, Calif., 12 miles from downtown Los Angeles. It is open to the public Wednesday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. Information: 626-405-2100 or huntington.org.
About Bon Appetit Management Co.
Bon Appétit Management Company is an on-site restaurant company operating 650-plus restaurants and cafés in 32 states for corporations, universities, and museums as well as The Commissary, Public House, STEM Kitchen and Garden, and other public restaurants. More information at bamco.com.
Baja Grill’s Baja Ceviche. Photo courtesy of Border Grill.
Exterior view of the Huntington Café, with Celebration Garden in the foreground. Photo courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.
Kajsa Alger’s pork and Napa cabbage water dumplings. Photo by Kajsa Alger.
Bon Appétit CEO and co-founder, Fedele Bauccio. Photo courtesy of Bon Appétit.
Flatbread with Butternut Squash
Flatbread with roasted butternut squash, pancetta, and fresh ricotta. Photo courtesy of Bon Appétit.
One of the signature views on the grounds of The Huntington, with Renaissance fountain in foreground and the Huntington Art Gallery in the distance. The research and cultural center was originally the estate of Gilded Age millionaire Henry Huntington and his wife Arabella. Photo courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo by Martha Benedict.
Milliken & Feniger
Border Grill co-founders Mary Sue Milliken (left) and Susan Feniger (right).
Chef Kajsa Alger
Co-owner of Blue Window.
Bon Appétit’s prosciutto with shaved artichoke. Photo courtesy of Bon Appétit.
Salad with Edible Flowers
Salad with arugula, watermelon radishes, grana padura, and edible flowers. Photo courtesy of Bon Appétit.
Yucatan Pork and Carnitas Tacos
Baja Grill’s Yucatan Pork and Carnitas Tacos. Photo courtesy of Border Grill.