Califonia Bountiful

Feeding body and soul

November/December 2020 California Bountiful magazine

Chef derives pleasure from hospitality

As a restaurateur, Tanya Holland strives to bring people together over food. Photo: © 2020 Lori Eanes

Feeding people: It's a pursuit chef Tanya Holland says is engrained in her DNA.

"I grew up with parents and extended family where food was love," she recalled, whether that meant hosting large gatherings or cooking for more intimate encounters, such as meals delivered to homebound seniors. "It's just something I've experienced since as long as I can remember—the importance of feeding people. I get a lot of joy out of it, more than even cooking itself."

Conviviality has long been a hallmark of Brown Sugar Kitchen, a well-known soul food restaurant she opened in Oakland in 2008. Perhaps that's one reason the pandemic-related closure of indoor dining came as such a blow, she said. But the prolific chef/restaurateur/cookbook author/TV personality isn't without ways to connect. One of the newest: Tanya's Table, a podcast featuring innovators and tastemakers across the United States.

"I have had a blast because I really like talking to different types of people," Holland said. "I don't have as much opportunity to do that anymore, so this has been a nice place for me to connect with people."

In addition, Holland is preparing to open a new "plant-forward" cafe at the Oakland Museum of California.

"The concept is that it represents the community and reflects the community, so it's going to be a bit more of a multi-ethnic menu, not just soul food," she said. "That's exciting, because I do have a big repertoire and I'll be able to execute it."

The East Coast native, whose resume includes culinary school in France and high-profile positions in several American cities, is also working on her third cookbook. The topic? She answered with a smile: "It's about how California has influenced my cooking."

Barbara Arciero


Braised chicken thighs with barbecued white beans and scallions

Grilled trinity salad in an olive-caper dressing

Collard wrapped salmon with Creole mustard sauce

Roasted carrot soup with sunflower seed crumble

Chocolate pecan bars

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