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Local Hero: Susan Feniger

Susan Feniger (photo by Ed Krieger)"... I just love that I have helped to create an environment in our restaurants and possibly through TV and Radio, where young people see someone able to be who they are out in the world and be completely open and proud of that. ..."

Chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, community activist, and a proud member of the LGBT Community, Susan Feniger is a success in many areas of life, not in the least of which is her desire to give back to the communities that support her. As one of the first successful females in a traditionally male dominated career, her appearances as an openly gay chef on such non-fiction TV shows as "Top Chef Masters" and her food series with business partner Sue Anne Milliken, "Too Hot Tamales," has made her a figure of admiration for many, both gay and straight.

Over 30 years ago, Feniger opened her first restaurant, City Café in Los Angeles with fellow chef, Mary Sue Milliken. City Café later turned into the current Border Grill, their version of a taco-stand serving authentic home cooking and street foods of Mexico. Cookbooks, television appearances, and more successful restaurants followed. Her first solo venture STREET- now reopened as MUD HEN TAVERN - was named one of the "Top Ten Lesbian-Owned Companies" by Curve magazine.

Feniger is an active board member of the Los Angeles LGBT Center which for more than 40 years has been advocating for the rights and enriching the lives of LGBT people. The LA LGBT Center's services include medical care, cultural arts programs, housing homeless youth and life-enriching programs for seniors. Drawn to work with youth, she is especially focused on the work the Center does to help get kids off of the street and get their high school diploma as well as the Center's inter-generational work that brings young and older LGBT people together.

Feniger is the co-chair of the Center's major fundraiser, Simply diVine, a food and wine extravaganza with live music. Feniger, who credits her Mid-Western Jewish parents for instilling in her the desire to give back, feels that while writing checks can be very helpful, producing an event like Simply diVine is what really gives her satisfaction. Susan has always been very hands on (even in her restaurants), this also allows her to show by example the joy and meaning of volunteering to the young restaurant staff that she mentors, encouraging them to donate their time. Her tireless contributions are numerous and include the annual Cool Comedy - Hot Cuisine events she helps organize for the Scleroderma Research Foundation on whose board she has sat for over 25 years.

Feniger lives in Los Angeles with her life partner of 18 years, filmmaker and screenwriter Liz Lachman. She has been given the Elizabeth Burns Lifetime Achievement Award by the California Restaurant Association and the California Restaurant Writer's prestigious "Chef of the Year" award.

To find out more about Susan Feniger and her work, visit bordergrill.com/ and mudhentavern.com/ .

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Local Hero: Naomi Ackerman

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Local Hero: Pastor Dan Hooper

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