Posted May 9, 2018 by Editorial Staff in Business

Soul Food Superstar Tanya Holland

tanya holland
tanya holland

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By Alejandra Saragoza

At 9:30 a.m. on a Tuesday, the sidewalks and streets of Oakland’s Mandela Parkway are quiet and empty, save for the occasional big rig or delivery truck barreling down the road. But as soon as you pull up to the corner of 26th Street, you’ll find a different scene: a steady stream of people heading into an unassuming chocolate-colored building, where Brown Sugar Kitchen bustles with activity. Waiters hurriedly walk by carrying piping hot mugs of coffee and plates of barbecue shrimp and grits; eggs and bacon sizzle on stovetops in the open kitchen; and cooks quickly ladle batter into irons to make fluffy cornmeal waffles topped with brown sugar butter and pieces of golden buttermilk-fried chicken.

Overseeing it all is chef-owner Tanya Holland, who watches her culinary domain like a hawk and steps in to help, stopping only to ask the hostess to close the windows “just half an inch” and a busboy to steady a slightly wobbly table. Holland’s high standards and close attention to every detail have helped her turn the humble Brown Sugar into a dining destination for breakfast and lunch in Oakland—attracting the likes of rapper Drake, Academy Award–winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry, acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, and San Francisco 49ers legend Joe Montana. The contemporary soul food eatery also serves as a convivial community-gathering place, where on any given day you can find local artists, business owners, and construction workers, along with students, families, and young professionals from across the Bay Area.