#JustCurious with Chef Tanya Holland
Acclaimed for her inventive take on modern soul food as well as comfort classics, TANYA HOLLAND is the Executive Chef/Owner of the internationally renowned and beloved Brown Sugar Kitchen restaurants. The author of The Brown Sugar Kitchen Cookbook and New Soul Cooking, 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 appeared on the new HBO Max show Selena + Chef featuring Selena Gomez. She is a frequent contributing writer and chef to the James Beard Foundation, and Brown Sugar Kitchen (Oakland, CA) has received multiple Michelin Bib Gourmand awards. Holland holds a Bachelor of Arts in Russian Language and Literature from the University of Virginia, and a Grande Diplôme from La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine (Burgundy, France).
BFiO: Just curious. What is it like being a Black woman in the food business?
Chef Tanya: It has been quite lonely at times. There are always misconceptions of our ability and ambition. It seems like we're expected to participate in a submissive and supportive way.
BFiO: What advice would you give to Black female culinary students or self taught cooks about being in the food business?
Chef Tanya: Be prepared to pay your dues. Try your best to learn from others who have accomplished what you hope to. A little humility will go a long way. Take notes!
BFiO: Name 3 Black women chefs you admire.
Chef Tanya: Mashama Bailey. Leah Chase. Edna Lewis.
BFiO: How has COVID impacted your business?
Chef Tanya: COVID has forced us to only be able to offer take out orders and now some outdoor dining, but it's a more informal hospitality model. The BLM [movement] has brought some more attention to our business along with community support.
BFiO: What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?
Chef Tanya: Maybe a gardener or a landscape architect. I also like city planning.
BFiO: What is your signature dish & what is it that you want people to know about this dish?
Chef Tanya: Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Cornmeal Waffles. Each component of the dish is made by hand. The waffle batter is made the day before so that the yeast can develop; the chicken marinates overnight in a buttermilk brine so that the chicken tenderizes and the flavors meld together. We make our own apple cider syrup and brown sugar butter to serve with them.