Of course, West Oakland's problems are deeper than one restaurant can solve; Brown Sugar Kitchen is open only from 7 A.M. to 3 P.M., because the area is desolate after dark. But Holland is also doing what she can to support local businesses, purchasing everything from the apple cider to the doilies under the pastries from her neighbors.
Brown Sugar Kitchen's success has rewired her. "I always had a certain vision for my life, but it seems like destiny had another plan," she says. Now even her TV experience seems to have led her to this point: "Every time we open the door, first thing in the morning, it's like, Show time!"
Emily Kaiser Thelin, who writes often for Food & Wine and The Wall Street Journal, is based in Berkeley.
Next: Get the recipes from Brown Sugar Kitchen