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Chef Tanya Holland's Town Fare Raises the Oakland Museum's Culinary Profile

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Chef Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen will head the vegetable focused menu at Town Fare, OMCA's new cafe set to open in August.  (Courtesy of Tanya Holland)

Starting this summer at the Oakland Museum of California, Tanya Holland will head a new cafe serving up California soul food. Town Fare at OMCA will be the second post of the chef and former Top Chef contestant, whose celebrated restaurant, Brown Sugar Kitchen, recently relocated to Broadway near Grand Avenue. (The San Francisco Ferry Building location of Brown Sugar Kitchen closed last month.)

“Unpretentious and delicious” is how Holland describes the upcoming menu at Town Fare, which will open in August after OMCA undergoes a $20 million renovation. As part of the remodel, led by Oakland's Hood Designs and San Francisco's Mark Cavagnero Associates, the museum’s garden and cafe will be accessible to the public without an admission ticket. In addition to breakfast, lunch and dinner, Town Fare is expected to stay open late for the museum’s weekly Friday Night at OMCA programs. 

Holland explains over the phone that she’s inspired by recent conversations around agriculture’s role in global change. As such, the menu at Town Fare will be vegetable-forward (though not strictly vegetarian) and consider alternative protein sources. “The more operations I have, the more purchasing power I have, the more influence I can have,” Holland says of her role in fighting climate change as a restaurateur.

The Oakland Museum of California's new cafe and courtyard, set to open in August, will be be accessible to the public.
The Oakland Museum of California's new cafe and courtyard will be be accessible to the public. (Courtesy of OMCA)

The vegetable-centered menu will also allow the chef to exercise some creative freedom.  “I have a huge repertoire of cooking that I've not really been able to use because of the concept of Brown Sugar Kitchen,” says the French-trained chef, adding that she expects to collaborate with the museum and other chefs on special menus. “I really want to use this platform to embrace that, and do some pop ups with colleagues, and collaborate with the museum when they have special exhibits.”

All Things Tanya Holland

Holland, a self-described architecture buff who carefully considers the artwork at her restaurants, says she’s excited to combine those passions at Town Fare. “I think of cooking as an art form, but I have not had the privilege to, at least in my mind, to fully just focus on it as an art form because I've been busy running a business and trying to raise money and get access to everything,” Holland explains. “[With] the way now that the Brown Sugar Kitchen in Uptown is starting too stabilize, and being able to run without me, this venue will give me a chance to get back to Tanya the creative a little bit more, which is exciting.”


The museum’s former cafe, Blue Oak Cafe, is currently closed. Construction is set to begin early next month and, in the interim, a lunch-only pop-up from chef Dionne Knox’s Zella’s Soulful Kitchen will take over the first floor lobby.

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