The Culinary Institute of America specifically, The CIA at Copia, launches “Conversations at Copia” today in downtown Napa. Panelists Tanya Holland and Emiliana Puyana will participate a discussion of “Culture & Cuisine” along with all star chefs Rick Bayless, Traci Des Jardins, Dan Giusti, and Kwame Onwuachi.
This new live talk series is being hosted by four-time James Beard award-winning TV personality Andrew Zimmern and brings together noted food pioneers and innovators. Today’s topic, “Culture & Cuisine” will bring chefs together to discuss how chefs prove their authority around a specific cuisine, and how they are adopting, embracing, and immersing themselves in the cultures that have inspired their cooking.
BELLA spoke to two particularly inspiring panelists for this conversation, Tanya Holland, widely recognized chef, author and owner of Brown Sugar Kitchen in San Francisco, where as a woman of color, she has forged a hard fought path to culinary acclaim, and Emiliana Puyana, program manager at La Cocina, a non-profit working to solve problems of equity in business ownership for women, immigrants and people of color.
Both Tanya and Emiliana have been working at the intersection of Culture and Cuisine for decades. Tanya, who studied cooking in France at the highest level, even meeting Julia Child as a student there, made the decision to cook the food of her heritage because it was more authentic and felt more true. “Ive been discussing this topic for years,” Tanya said, explaining that her customers are regularly shocked with the finesse of her cooking and attention to detail at her soul food “ethnic” restaurant. “why is it that certain ethnic cuisines don’t become popular until a white male chef “elevates,” which really means ‘recognizes’ it?” she asks. But, she insists, she’s excited the Culinary Institute of America is having these conversations and honored to be a part of the conversations at Copia panel. “It’s great to finally be in a position where people want to hear what I have to say,” she says, ” CIA is prestigious and I want to do as much as I can to move these conversations forward. Copia is an important place and what it holds is important in our industry.”
Emiliana is hoping that the Conversations at Copia panel motivates people to go beyond the talk and take real action when it comes to “Culture & Cuisine” . “Why can authentic French and Italian cooking command such high prices while other ethnic foods like Mexican or Chinese, remain at the bottom of the price list?”” she asks. The problem with profitability in ethnic cooking is rampant and something La Cocina addresses head on with its mentees. “Conversations are not enough” she says, “we need to curate more spaces for people who are marginalized and left out of the conversation. We need real money to change hands in the food industry, people of color need to get capital and get paid, and women need to get compensated on par with men.”
Tanya has seen this marginalization first hand. “Even though I went to the right schools and knew the right people, I still wasn’t able to get into the spaces I originally wanted in San Francisco,” she said. Brown Sugar Kitchen landed in Oakland because that’s where she found a space to open. It didn’t go unnoticed that the two spaces she originally wanted were both leased to white men shortly after she was denied. It’s worth noting that both spaces have since changed hands several times. Shedding light on these and other issues within the food industry is what makes “Coversations at Copia” important and relevant.
Hailed a “foodie wonderland” by The New York Times, The CIA at Copia is The Culinary Institute of America’s epicurean destination in downtown Napa, designed for the public to immerse in the past, present, and future of food.
By Michele DiNardo
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