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Tanya Holland
Cooking demonstration at Bloomingdales, SF, 2011
Born July 14, 1965 (1965-07-14) (age 56)
Hartford, Connecticut
Cooking style New Soul
Education University of Virginia; La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine, Burgundy, France

Tanya Holland (born July 14, 1965) is an American professional chef, restaurateur, podcast host, cookbook author, and owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, CA. 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 competed on the 15th season of Top Chef on Bravo, was the host and soul food expert on Food Network’s Melting Pot, and appears on the HBO Max show Selena + Chef starring Selena Gomez (Holland appears on episode 8). She is a frequent contributing writer and chef to the James Beard Foundation, and Brown Sugar Kitchen has received multiple Michelin Bib Gourmand awards. She is an in-demand public speaker and lecturer who frequently leads the conversation on inclusion and equity in the hospitality industry. In 2020, she released her debut Tanya's Table Podcast produced by MuddHouse Media. Guests on the podcast include Questlove, Samin Nosrat, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Alice Waters, Danny Meyer, Gina Torres & more.


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, an assistant sommelier for a wine importer, and a server at Mesa Grill before she committed to a career in the kitchen.

Holland attended La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Burgundy, France, where she received a Grand Diploma in 1992.


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 her first restaurant, 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, was open from 2011-2015. After 10 years in West Oakland, Brown Sugar Kitchen relocated to Downtown Oakland in 2019. The new space, located at 2295 Broadway, boasts 85 seats with a large, wrap around bar.

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. Having been appointed as a Culinary Diplomat by the United States' Foreign Service Department for tours in Kazakhstan and Mexico, Holland also has taught classes in France for gastronomic travelers.

Holland has an expansive knowledge of the restaurant business due to her roles as a Catering Office Manager, wine importer’s Tasting Assistant, a Server at Mesa Grill, and a Food Styling Assistant to Roscoe Betsill of Metropolitan Home, Vegetarian Times, and Food & Wine magazines

The mayor and city council of Oakland passed a council resolution on June 5, 2012, declaring that day as "Tanya Holland Day” 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 Les Dames d’Escoffier in 2013. The Women's Initiative for Self-Employment 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.

In 2017, Holland was a contestant in Top Chef, an American reality show where she placed 9th out of 16. Holland was eliminated in a tense episode of Top Chef after she refused to address the claims made by her teammate Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins. Holland has since commented that "bro culture" permeated the show.

Television appearances

  • Selena + Chef (HBO Max, 2020)
  • Iron Chef (2017)
  • Top Chef Season 15 (2017-2018)
  • Home & Family (Hallmark, 2015-2017)
  • CBS This Morning (2016)
  • The Talk (CBS, (2013-2015 & 2020)
  • The Chew (CBS, 2013)
  • My Momma Throws Down (TV ONE, March 2012)
  • Eye on the Bay & Check Please! Bay Area (PBS, 2008-2010)
  • Soul Cities (VH1, 2009)
  • G. Garvin's Road Tour (TV ONE, 2008)
  • Byron Allen's Every Woman (2005)
  • The Wayne Brady Show (ABC, 2004)
  • The Jane Pauley Show (NBC, 2004)
  • Sara Moulton's Cooking Live (Food Network, 2001)
  • Emeril's Holiday Special & Ready Set Cook (Food Network, 2001)
  • Melting Pot Soul Kitchen (Food Network, 2000-2003)
  • Today Show (NBC, 2000)

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)


Holland has contributed recipes or been featured in the following books:

  • Impossible™: The Cookbook: How to Save Our Planet, One Delicious Meal at a Time, by Impossible Foods Inc., 2020, ISBN: 978-1797203041.
  • The Bay Area Homegrown Cookbook: Local Food, Local Restaurants, Local Recipes, by Aaron French, Elizabeth Tichenor, and Paul Bertolli, 2011, ISBN: 978-0-7603-3810-0.
  • In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn by Heart, by Alice Waters, 2010, ISBN: 978-0-307-33680-4.
  • The Reach of A Chef: Professional Cooks in the Age of Celebrity, by Michael Ruhlman, 2007, ISBN: 978-0-14-311207-5.
  • Today’s Kitchen Cookbook, by Stephanie Karpinske, 2005, ISBN: 0-696-22542-5.
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