the woman behind the institution
Known for her inventive take on modern soul food, as well as comfort classics, Tanya Holland is the executive chef/owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen. She is also the author of the Brown Sugar Kitchen Cookbook and New Soul Cooking; was the host and soul food expert on the television series Melting Pot; and competed on the fifteenth season of Top Chef. Holland holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia, and a Grande Diplôme from La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine.
Holland appeared as a special guest on countless national television shows including the Today Show, Vh1′s Soul Cities, Sarah Moulton’s Cooking Live, Ready, Set, Cook! and The Wayne Brady Show, in addition to local San Francisco shows such as Check, Please!, View from the Bay and Eye on the Bay. Tanya was a featured judge on My Momma Throws Down, airing on the cable network TV One as well as The Great American Chef’s Tour on PBS.
Holland has contributed to The Huffington Post, Food & Wine, Signature Bride, and Wine Enthusiast magazines, and has been featured in articles in The New York Times, Gourmet, O Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Savoy, Travel & Leisure, and Sunset just to name a few. Holland has served as the president of the prestigious Les Dames d’Escoffier San Francisco chapter.. 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.
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 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.