Tanya Holland continues to make an impact on the culinary industry, interview

MASTERCHEF: Guest judge Tanya Holland in the “Legends Dinner” airing Wednesday, Sept 1 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: FOX.
MASTERCHEF: Guest judge Tanya Holland in the “Legends Dinner” airing Wednesday, Sept 1 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. © 2021 FOX MEDIA LLC. CR: FOX. /

While her restaurant Brown Sugar Kitchen is legendary, Tanya Holland brings her poignant point of view to this season’s MasterChef Legends. As part of the Legends Dinner, the award-winning chef, author and restaurateur is never afraid to speak her truth. During a recent conversation, Holland shared her thoughts on her drive to succeed, the impact of criticism and the discipline needed to work in the restaurant industry.

From celebrities to people who crave a plate of her fried chicken, Brown Sugar Kitchen is an iconic restaurant. But, Holland is more than just one restaurant that has numerous accolades. Her many years in the culinary world have garnered her the ability to speak open and honestly about her experiences. Her path to success might not have been the easiest road, but it is the one that she continues to travel.

Although chefs sometimes appear to have a tough exterior and seem immune to the criticism heaped upon them, that ability to let the cutting words not penetrate deeply is a learned attribute. Holland shared a story about an important life lesson told to her by the iconic Leah Chase.

Recalling the story, Holland said, “I met (Chase) when I had just finished cooking school and she said, you are going to receive a lot of criticism in this work, and you just have to accept it, take it, and work with it. I just thought she saved me a lot of heartache and headache. Just planting that seed for me, knowing essentially this is about. Food is so subjective. Everybody’s going to have their opinion.”

As she continued, Holland gave an example about the fried chicken on her menu. When someone references that her chicken “doesn’t taste like my grandmother’s fried chicken” that opinion is valid, but it doesn’t make her fried chicken any less great or memorable.

Holland commented that food “is made with human hands, there is room for interpretation, and you’re going to cook with your personal preferences.” All those attributes are valid, and everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Still, Holland feels that there are ways that she can and will rise to the occasion. She admitted that she has always been “aspirational and ambitious.” A “sense of determination” has been really important to pushing her career forward.

Tanya Holland believes that there is no finish line to her aspirations

While Holland might not seek to cross a proverbial finish line, she is always pursuing goals. She commented that “to the outside world seems like I’ve hit every goal and piece of success, but I’m not quite there yet.” Whether it was frustration that male chefs rose up the ranks more quickly or she had to fight harder for the same recognition, the differences were not going to be an impediment. Those inequalities only pushed her harder.

As she continues to strive forward, Holland believes that hard work is at the heart of any person’s success. When asked what advice that she would give young cooks, it boiled down to one word, discipline.

From always being willing to learn to writing everything down, Holland tells chefs “to take the work seriously.” Good habits will always serve cooks well.

Although cooking in a restaurant is far different than cooking at home, Holland did offer this key piece of advice for any cook. She said that planning is the key to success. That concept helps to take the stress out of the situation and can make the whole cooking process more enjoyable. After all, being in a good mood can lead to more flavorful food. It might not be the definition of soul food but cooking from the heart is always welcome at any table.

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Tanya Holland joins several other chefs on MasterChef Legends “Legends Table” episode, which airs on FOX. In addition, she is the owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen, host of the podcast Tanya’s Table, cookbook author and has received numerous culinary accolades.