Tanya Holland is an African-American professional chef, cookbook author, and owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen. Her first book, New Soul Cooking, was published by Stuart, Tabori & Chang in 2003. A second book, Brown Sugar Kitchen: New Style Down-Home Recipes from Sweet West Oakland with a foreword by Michael Chabon, was released in 2014 by Chronicle Books. Holland is a regular guest chef on NBC's Today Show and CBS's The Talk. She hosted the Food Network TV show "Melting Pot Soul Kitchen" from 2000-2003.
Holland was born in Hartford, Connecticut where her father, Hollis Holland, attended Western New England College. The Holland family moved to Rochester, New York when Holland was two years old, when her father took a job with Eastman Kodak.
Holland’s parents (Hollis and Annette Holland) influenced her interest in cooking: her father is from rural Virginia and her mother from Louisiana. When Holland was eight years old, her parents founded a gourmet cooking and eating club that consisted of six couples from different ethnic and professional backgrounds. They gathered to share experiences and meals that ranged from French, Mexican, Jewish, Indian, Pennsylvanian Dutch, Italian and Southern Cuisine.
Holland graduated from Pittsford-Mendon High School in 1983. She attended the University of Virginia, where she graduated in 1987 with a BA in Russian Language and Literature, and began her restaurant career in New York City as an assistant manager at Cornelia Street Café, Café Rakel and Nosmo King restaurants. She went on to work as a catering office manager, a tasting assistant for a wine importer, and a server at Mesa Grill before she committed to a career in the kitchen.
While 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 Chambéry. Holland returned to Mesa Grill in 1994 to work as a line cook. While working as a line cook at Verbena, she supplemented her income as a food styling assistant to Roscoe Betsill whose work has been featured in Metropolitan Home, Vegetarian Times and Food and Wine magazines.
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 positive reviews as the Executive Chef of The Delux Café in Boston and The Victory Kitchen in Brooklyn. In 2002, she returned to the front of the house as Creative Director at Le Théâtre in Berkeley, CA.
Holland has lived in Oakland, California since 2003. She opened Brown Sugar Kitchen in West Oakland in 2008, receiving positive reviews for signature dishes such as chicken and waffles, oyster po’boys, and BBQ shrimp & grits. Her barbecue restaurant, B-Side BBQ, opened in December 2011.
She has contributed to Food and Wine and Signature Bride magazines. She has been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Savoy magazine, Travel + Leisure, Sunset, Food and Wine,O Magazine, Ebony, Essence, and local publications. She has written for Wine Enthusiast and The Huffington Post. 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 Puerto Resort and Spa in Tecate, Mexico. Holland is a member of the prestigious Chef’s Council for The Center For Culinary Development in San Francisco.
The mayor and city council of Oakland passed a council resolution on June 5, 2012, declaring that day as for her “Significant Role in Creating Community and Establishing Oakland as a Culinary Center”.
Holland was named "2013 Restaurateur/Chef of the Year" by the California Travel Association during the California Travel Summit in March 2013 in San Diego. Holland was elected co-president of the San Francisco chapter of in 2013. The named Holland Woman Entrepreneur of Year in October 2013. Holland was awarded The Key to the City of Oakland by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan on August 2, 2014.
- Melting Pot (Food Network)
- The Today Show (regularly appearing guest chef)
- The Talk
- The Chew
- Cooking Live with Sarah Moulton
- Ready, Set, Cook!
- The Wayne Brady Show
- The Jane Pauley Show
- Soul Cities with Nelson George
- G. Garvin’s Road Tour
Awards and Organizations
Tanya has received numerous awards and accolades, including:
- “Bib Gourmand,” Michelin Guide (2010 and 2011)
- “Michelin Recommended,” Michelin Guide (2012)
- “Best Soul Food,” Oakland Magazine (2009 and 2010)
- “Best Southern/Soul Food,” East Bay Express (2009 and 2010)
- "Tanya Holland Day" was declared by Mayor Jean Quan and city council resolution on June 5, 2012
- "Best New Barbecue in America" Food & Wine Magazine (2012)
- "Best New Barbecue in USA" Travel & Leisure Magazine (2013)
- "Woman Entrepreneur of the Year"' by Women's Initiative (2013)
- "2013 Restaurateur/Chef of the Year: recognizing an individual chef or restaurant that has created a dining establishment and experience that effectively marries the culinary arts with the tourism industry." The award was presented during the California Travel Summit on March 20, 2013 in San Diego.
- "Best Barbecue in America" by Ebony Magazine (July 2014)
- "Key to the City" awarded by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan (August 2, 2014)