An oatmeal white chocolate "lactation cookie," which includes ingredients that improve milk production, according to Tali Biale. (Photo/Kara Brodgesell)
An oatmeal white chocolate "lactation cookie," which includes ingredients that improve milk production, according to Tali Biale. (Photo/Kara Brodgesell)

Kitchen Doula cooks nutrient-dense foods for moms, others needing extra support 

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Kitchen Doula, an Oakland business that provides nutrient-dense food for postpartum women and for others who are healing or grieving, was founded almost on a whim.

Chef-owner Tali Biale, 38, began small by delivering meals she cooked herself in her parents’ Berkeley kitchen.

Biale is the daughter of David and Rachel Biale. He is a professor emeritus of Jewish studies at UC Davis, she is a Jewish community professional, and both are responsible for the Jewish adult-education program New Lehrhaus.

When Biale started her business in 2015 focusing on providing hearty food for new mothers, she didn’t know firsthand how vital it was until she had her own child 2½ years ago. “I didn’t cook for two months,” she said.

Food has been an important part of her life for as long as she can remember. Early influences include growing up near Berkeley’s Monterey Market with its legendary produce, as well as mealtime with her parents. They weren’t necessarily “fancy” cooks, Biale said, but her mother made the most delicious and comforting soups.

“Soups were always her love language,” she said.

Rachel Biale recalled that even as an infant, Tali had a curiosity about food. “When we introduced solid food, she gave me a look which, though she had no language yet, I was sure meant: Where oh where have you been hiding this great stuff until now?”

Tali Biale, the owner of Kitchen Doula, sears lamb in her home kitchen in Oakland, May 21, 2024. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
Tali Biale, the owner of Kitchen Doula, sears lamb in her home kitchen in Oakland, May 21, 2024. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Living in Bologna, Italy, during college is where Biale really took a serious interest in cooking. When she came back, baking became a stress-reducing pastime while she was working on her thesis about incarcerated women. She soon became the go-to person when her friends needed a birthday cake.

Biale spent her post-college years in the culinary world learning by doing. She worked as a pastry chef at the highly lauded Union Square Cafe in New York City and cooked on a farm, among other jobs. Through those experiences she learned how to work with the seasons, cooking with ingredients that were readily available. She also came to understand something even more valuable.

“I learned about the power of food to take care of people and how much that can make people feel loved and special,” Biale said.

The seed for her business idea was planted after she returned to the Bay Area and cooked a meal for a friend who had recently given birth. The friend told her she had received many gifts but the meal was the one she most appreciated. Later, Biale offered to cook for her pregnant boss at the yoga studio where she was working at the time. From there, her services spread by word of mouth.

Kitchen Doula specializes in soups and stews, the kind of slow-cooked meals that people going through major life changes crave but don’t necessarily have the time or inclination to make for themselves.

“While we have entreés and breakfast items, the soups and stews are really the anchor of our menu, and that’s because I love to cook them and eat them,” Biale said.

“I also really think there’s a reason we want them when we’re sick. A lot of healing comes from that kind of meal that’s slow-cooked in bone broth with bone-in meats. It provides a lot of nutrient density and is easy on the digestive system.”

Chicken pozole verde from Kitchen Doula. (Photo/Courtesy)
Chicken pozole verde from Kitchen Doula. (Photo/Courtesy)

I was treated to two of Kitchen Doula’s popular dishes: a chicken pozole verde ($30) and an Ethiopian red lentil stew ($30) with the spice blend berbere from Oaktown Spice Shop. Both stews were perfectly spiced without being too spicy. The dishes were exactly as billed, delicious and nourishing, the kind of food you would need if depleted but probably wouldn’t have the energy to make yourself.

I also tried a loaf ($20) of Claudine’s Bread, a local vendor that produces a gluten-free bread made with almond flour and flaxseed meal, and tasted the date-coconut energy ball bites ($15), both the walnut-brownie and cashew-lime flavors.

There’s a Yemenite Jewish dish on the regular menu: a beef stew ($30) inspired by Yemenite restaurants she has visited in Israel. Its warming spices, including cardamom, cumin, coriander and turmeric, have made it another popular dish.

Kitchen Doula also has oatmeal white chocolate “lactation cookies” ($15) with ingredients designed to improve milk production, as well as Nourish Mama Tea ($15) from the Moon & Honey Herbal Shop.

Her business has grown over the years to the point that she now has a staff of four in her Oakland commercial kitchen. She started shipping nationally in January. The soups and stews come frozen in plastic pouches, and Biale said she spent the fall researching the most sustainable packing materials available.

“Our villages are scattered now,” she said. “We may have great friends who live in New York. I  wanted to create something so that people have a tool they can call on to take care of someone from afar. It felt like a natural fit.”

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."