Food Secrets of Chef/Author Tanya Holland

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Tanya Holland. Photo credit: Lisa Keating Photography
Tanya Holland. Photo credit: Lisa Keating Photography

Tanya Holland is the Chef/Owner of Southern cooking hotspot Brown Sugar Kitchen (BSK) in West Oakland, where cornmeal waffles and fried chicken are among the menu highlights. BSK reflects her interpretation of soul food, with influences from her African-American heritage, formal French cooking training, and “a general appreciation of a wide variety of cuisines.” BSK received the Michelin Guide’s “Bib Gourmand” award in 2010 and 2011, as well as “Best Soul Food” from Oakland Magazine, and “Best Southern/Soul Food” from the East Bay Express. Holland plans to open a second BSK in San Francisco’s Bayview District in May this year, and told Bay Area Bites that this one will be “slightly bigger than the original, with the same menu and same hours.”

As a chef, Holland trained in France, and cooked at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill in New York. She worked at Le Théâtre in Berkeley, with a French-Creole fusion menu. Holland is also the author of New Soul Cooking: Updating a Cuisine Rich in Flavor and Tradition, and for 4 years was featured on the Food Network’s "Melting Pot Soul Kitchen.” She has appeared on The Today Show, Sarah Moulton’s Cooking Live, Ready, Set, Cook!, The Wayne Brady Show, and The Jane Pauley Show. Holland has contributed to Food and Wine and Signature Bride magazines, and been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Savoy, and others. Holland was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in the same hospital as her husband, who she met in the Bay Area. As a child, she said she lived in Rochester, New York, “from the age of two,” and has been an Oakland resident since 2003.

Berkeley Bowl West: “that’s the new Berkeley Bowl… there’s an amazing selection of produce. I like to buy their sushi quality fish because I like it super fresh. I’ll then cook it really rare and it’s just great.”
Market Hall: “For cheese and specialty items. I love their prepared foods, and pastas, for lunch. It’s amazing. I also like shopping for fish there, and lately I’ve been buying Loch Duarte salmon.”
Mandela Foods Cooperative: “It’s local and they’re bringing in organic foods. It’s nice that they’re in the neighborhood and I like to support them.”

“All three of these places source really high quality ingredients.”
At Boot & Shoe Service, “I really like their squid pizza and their avocado toast.
I end up at Gather a lot, for great food, great drinks, and a great wine list. I enjoy the way they work with vegetables and organic meats.
Café Rouge: “All their meats are so good: the rib eye, and burger. As are the seafood, and oysters.”


Holland said she enjoys Pho 84 and True Burger.

“We love Foreign Cinema. That’s our favorite. Also, Chez Panisse Café or anywhere in wine country.” (laughs)

“I like pretty much any chocolate… Divine Chocolate is a good one.”

Tanya Holland's Brown Sugar Kitchen featured on Check, Please! Bay Area