Three cheers for LA's own Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, "too hot tamales" that just don't quit!
When The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that ABC had picked up a pilot based on their lives, we were giddy with (cautious -- after all, it is just a pilot) excitement.
The show, which will be set in the 80s, follows the rise of two female chefs at a time when women were a rare sight in professional kitchens. Throw in an ironclad friendship, delicious food shots, and a plot line about husband-swapping, and it sounds like something that should already be on television.
Over their career, the pair raised the profile of Mexican cuisine in Los Angeles with high-end restaurants like Border Grill and Ciudad, started the KCRW radio show "Good Food," and were among the Food Network's first television chefs with a show called "Too Hot Tamales." Their slow and steady rise to fame played a huge part in creating the restaurant scene Los Angeles is famous for today, and they did it all as a partnership.
It was Disney's former CEO Michael Eisner who put the pitch together. Eisner had profiled them in a book about dynamic business duos called Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed. He revealed to the Los Angeles Times that their story was one of the most captivating chapters for his readers.
Just in case ABC needs any help coming up with ideas for episodes, we've got a few:
- The time Feniger and Milliken, who were young chefs cooking and living in Paris, saw a rainbow and decided to open up a restaurant together. Here's how Feniger described the moment, in an interview with the Huffington Post:
One night we had made dinner and it was pouring rain, and we were probably on our second bottle of wine, and there was this rainbow we saw out of Mary Sue's little window. And we sort of decided we would open a restaurant together. We had never even talked about it, but we decided, and we started thinking "where should we go?"
- Feniger's first job in LA, which involved making specials with a hot plate and a hibachi grill at a cafe owned by L.A. Eyeworks.
- Feniger and Milliken traveling all the way down to San Diego for farm-fresh produce, because farmers markets hadn't taken off yet.
- When a brand-new Food Network approached them about hosting their own show, the "Too Hot Tamales" (they ended up filming 400 episodes before the showrun was over).
- And of course, the fact that Milliken has been happily married to Feniger's ex-husband for decades. Here's Milliken in an interview with the Huffington Post, describing how Feniger sneakily set them up:
She kept saying to me for those five years -- that's when I met Susan, right after she was divorced from her husband -- she had said to me every time I had boyfriend troubles, "God I wish you could meet my ex-husband. He's perfect for you!" So after hearing that for five years, and then when we were opening our second restaurant together here in LA, she said, "Let's call Josh and hire him to be our architect." And I said, "Fine, that sounds great!" And he moved here, and we just fell in love. In like, three weeks, he moved in. And that was in 1984. Susan's been in the delivery room when both of our kids were born, and she's part of our family. We're very close.