Mary Sue Milliken is a James Beard and Julia Child award recipient, cookbook author, media personality, food system activist, and co-owner of SOCALO, BBQ Mexicana, Pacha Mamas, and Border Grill restaurants, catering, and food trucks, which she runs with her business partner Susan Feniger. After graduating from Washburne Culinary Institute in Chicago, Milliken worked her way up and became the first female chef at Le Perroquet in 1978—where she soon met Susan Feniger. Following, she cooked at the woman-owned, two-Michelin-star Restaurant D’Olympe in Paris, before rejoining Feniger in L.A. to launch City Café in 1981, applying French techniques to unfamiliar dishes from around the world. The culinary pair found further acclaim with CITY Restaurant in 1985 and captured the hearts of Angelenos with Border Grill’s ’85 debut, with locations in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the critically acclaimed Border Grill serves street food-inspired regional Mexican cuisine with a commitment to sustainability. In 2018, Milliken and Feniger debuted BBQ Mexicana, a fast-casual eatery with four Las Vegas locations; in 2019, the duo launched Pacha Mamas, a skewer and ceviche stand in Las Vegas; and in late 2019 the chefs opened SOCALO, a California canteen and Mexican Pub serving seasonal SoCal Mexican fare in Santa Monica. Most recently, the chefs have been collaborating on menus and restaurant concepts including Alice B, an all-new Palm Springs restaurant, opening in 2023 at Living Out. Mary Sue has co-authored five cookbooks, co-starred in Food Network’s Too Hot Tamales, and successfully competed on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters. Milliken is passionate about food policy and works with various nonprofits around the world to bring her expertise to help shape sustainable food systems. Mary Sue also serves on the Board of Trustees for the James Beard Foundation, the U.S. State Department’s American Chef Corps, and is a founding member of Regarding Her: a national non-profit on a mission to advance women-identifying and nonbinary food and beverage entrepreneurs and leaders.
Mary Sue Milliken