Tanya Holland is known for her inventive take on modern soul food, as well as comfort classics. She’s the executive chef/owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, California, and is also the author of the Brown Sugar Kitchen Cookbook and New Soul Cooking. She 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.
We were excited to hear Tanya has a new podcast series out – TANYA’S TABLE – a multi-dimensional, integrated journey for your soul. She believes the nurturing aspect that food provides everyone is a great conduit for talking with people who want to dig into understanding people of all experiences and culture. The podcast focuses on learning and gaining perspective, which feeds our souls in a way that a great meal satiates us. Her first season guests include QuestLove, Alice Waters, Danny Meyer, Aisha Tyler, Gina Torres, Bassem Youssef, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and many more…
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, California. This lead to the opening of the now famed soul food eatery, Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, California.
Holland 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.
She 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.
It was her focus on Southern fare and Soul Food that we were interested to learn more about, particularly soul food and wine pairings. During the show, Tanya tasted with us three wines from St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery in Napa Valley and two from Mathis Wine in Sonoma Valley.
Tune in or download to hear our discussion about pairings with these wines:
Related to our mission, it was interesting to hear about Tanya’s views about diversity, inclusivity and the challenge of finding mentors during different phases of a career. It was valuable to hear how Europeans take more time and focus on developing relationships and getting to know one another – a trait we could all learn from during this pandemic.
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