the woman behind the institution 

Tanya Holland is the Executive Chef and Owner of the famous Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, CA. Holland is known for her inventive takes on modern soul food, as well as comfort classics.The author of Brown Sugar Kitchen: New-Style, Down-Home Recipes from Sweet West Oakland, and New Soul Cooking: Updating a Cuisine Rich in Flavor and Tradition (Stewart, Tabori, and Chang), Holland is known for her role as a host and expert on Soul Food for the “Melting Pot” series on Food Network, where chefs such as Holland, Michelle Bernstein, Cat Cora, Rocco DiSpirito and Michael Symon focused on different foods from around the world. Holland has also made guest appearances on national shows such as The Today Show, Vh1′s Soul Cities, Sarah Moulton’s Cooking Live, Ready, Set, Cook! and The Wayne Brady Show, as well as numerous appearances on local San Francisco shows such as Check, Please!, View from the Bay and Eye on the Bay. Tanya was a featured judge on the kitchen competition series My Momma Throws Down, airing on the cable network TV One as well as The Great American Chef’s Tour on PBS.

Holland received her formal French training (receiving a Grande Diplôme) from La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Burgundy, France. Holland has contributed to The Huffington Post, Food & Wine, Signature Bride, and Wine Enthusiast magazines, and has been featured in articles in O Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Savoy, Travel & Leisure, Sunset, and numerous other publications. Chef Holland is a regular instructor at Rancho La Puerta Spa in Tecate, Mexico (Rated #1 spa in the world by Travel & Leisure). Holland is a member of the prestigious Les Dames d’Escoffier. The City of Oakland declared June 5th, 2012 as Tanya Holland Day for her "Significant Role in Creating Community and Establishing Oakland as a Culinary Center".

As a chef, Holland has traveled extensively in pursuit of more experience and knowledge. In France, she trained with Michel Sarran at Le Mas Du Langoustier on the Island of Porquerolles and with Jean-Michel Bouvier at Restaurant L’Essential in Chambery. She spent two summers cooking on Martha’s Vineyard Island at The Oyster Bar and L’Etoile, interrupted by a winter at Hamersley’s Bistro in Boston. She received rave reviews as the Executive Chef of The Delux Café in Boston and The Victory Kitchen in Brooklyn. Intrigued by the burgeoning West Coast food movement, Holland decided to move to warmer weather where she returned to the front of the house and garnered stellar reviews in her starring role as Creative Director at Le Théâtre in Berkeley, CA. This lead to the opening of the now famed soul food eatery, Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland CA.

Holland holds a Bachelor of Arts in Russian Language and Literature from the University of Virginia, as well as a Grande Diplôme from La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Burgundy, France. She began her restaurant career in New York City as an assistant manager at Cornelia Street Café, Café Rakel and Nosmo King Restaurants. Later, she expanded her knowledge of the restaurant business by working as a Catering Office Manager, as well as a wine importer’s Tasting Assistant and a server at Mesa Grill. Her passion for cuisine led her to take on more responsibility as a Food Styling Assistant to Roscoe Betsill, of Metropolitan Home, Vegetarian Times and Food & Wine magazines. Deciding to turn her attention to the kitchen full time, Holland returned to Mesa Grill in 1994, where she worked as a line cook under celebrity chef Bobby Flay.

 Tanya with Julia Child 

Tanya with Julia Child 

Holland has contributed to The Huffington PostFood & Wine, Signature Bride, and Wine Enthusiast magazines, and has been featured in articles in O Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Savoy, Travel & Leisure, Sunset, and numerous local publications. In 1998, she taught at the Cambridge Culinary Institute in Massachusetts and continues to share her knowledge at recreational cooking schools across the country such as Cooking by the Book, Ramekins, Draegers, Central Market, Whole Foods, and Andronico’s Market, and at Rancho La Puerta Resort & Spa in Tecate, Mexico. Holland served on The Board of Directors of Meals on Wheels of San Francisco, and is currently serving on the Board of Directors of Women’s Initiative. She is a member of the Chef’s Council for The Center for Culinary Development in San Francisco. In 2010, Holland was inducted as a member of the prestigious Les Dames d’Escoffier. Holland continues to the share her love of modern Southern fare by bringing home her passion for soul food and the amazing experiences shared through the act of enjoying a meal with family and friends.

Tanya on LinkedIn