Ana Sortun - Chef/Owner
Best Chef: Northeast, 2005 – James Beard Foundation
Sortun is one of the country's "best creative fusion practitioners." Her food is "inspired and inspiring." – Mimi Sheraton, Eating My Words
Sortun's food "is at once rustic-traditional and deeply inventive." – Catharine Reynolds, New York Times
"Should you have time for only one place to eat, make it this space." –Tom Sietsema, Washington Post
With a degree from La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Paris, the Seattle-born Ana Sortun opened Moncef Medeb's Aigo Bistro in Concord, Massachusetts, in the early 1990s. Stints at 8 Holyoke and Casablanca in Harvard Square, Cambridge soon followed.
This was all in the beginning of her career, when Sortun was still cooking what most people think of as typical Mediterranean food from Spain, southern France and Italy. People loved it. While at Casablanca, a friend of the owner invited Sortun to study in Turkey.
Not knowing anything about Turkish food or culture but eager to learn, she accepted. ("I imagined flying carpets and genies," she says wryly.) But when she arrived in southeastern Turkey, Sortun's host and her friends presented a potluck of sorts. "I tasted 30 amazing dishes from these women's family repertoires," Sortun remembers. "I was stunned at how rich and interesting yet light everything was."
That trip was when she learned that in the Mediterranean, spice is used to create richness, depth and flavor without heaviness. She also experienced the mezze style of eating, which is to have many tastes of mostly vegetable-based dishes before reaching a protein course. "Chefs always focus on flavor and appearance," says Sortun, "but few think about how one feels after eating a long meal."
Upon her return to Boston, she wanted to fuse her newfound love of Eastern Mediterranean spices with her passion for using only the best ingredients. The result of this union was Oleana, which opened in Cambridge in 2001. A mere four years later, Sortun won a coveted and prestigious James Beard Award.
Sortun's commitment to locally grown food took a turn for the personal when a farmer selling spinach turned up at the back door of Oleana one day. "I knew then that I would marry him," Sortun says. Since 2006, Siena Farms has been providing the restaurant with most of its fresh, organic produce. It is owned and farmed by the chef's husband, Chris Kurth, and named after the couple's daughter.
Not content to rest on their laurels, Sortun , business partner Gary Griffin and pastry chef Kilpatrick decided they wanted to launch a more casual venue. Three years of brainstorming later, in August of 2008, Sofra was born in Cambridge, Mass. This Middle Eastern bakery, café and retail shop offers flatbread sandwiches, mezzes, prepared foods and baked goods. It has received both local and national press; Food & Wine, Metropolitan Home and Gourmet have all featured it as a place not to miss.
Maura Kilpatrick - Pastry Chef
"Maura Kilpatrick's creations are dazzling." - Alison Arnett, The Boston Globe
"Stunningly original." - Boston Magazine
Boston's Best Pastry Chef: 2002, '07, '08, ‘09 - Boston Magazine
Star chefs rising star award 2009 - Best concept, sofra bakery/cafe
After receiving a graduate certificate in baking at the California Culinary Academy, Maura Kilpatrick moved back to her hometown of Boston and worked with some of the city's top chefs including Lydia Shire, Moncef Medeb, Rene Michelena, and Ana Sortun.
In 1999, Kilpatrick opened two highly acclaimed and successful Boston-area bakeries: Hi-Rise Bread Company and Hi-Rise Pie Company, where some of her recipes are still in use. In 2001, she and Sortun reunited to develop the concept for the much-anticipated Oleana Restaurant; that's when Kilpatrick fell in love with the strikingly unusual flavors and spices for which she is known. Her desserts boast bold flavors, originality, and most of all, heart.
"Nothing is on a plate by accident," she explains. Every texture, flavor, and even temperature in her desserts and pastries has been carefully thought out, tested, and retried. Her talent may lie in taking traditional Eastern Mediterranean ingredients such as orange blossoms, phyllo and rose petals and putting her own modern, Western spin on them, but her gift comes from truly caring about what she does.
Working at Oleana has demanded that she constantly try new things. "I've learned how to take chances," Kilpatrick says, how to "to try again and again." It's not the easiest path, but it's one that leads to excellence. "I'm so grateful for the excitement of stretching myself creatively," she says. And so are the critics, writers and diners who can't praise her artistry on a plate highly enough.
Not content to rest on their laurels, Kilpatrick & Sortun decided they wanted to launch a more casual venue. Three years of brainstorming later, in August of 2008, Sofra was born in Cambridge, Mass. This Middle Eastern bakery, café and retail shop offers flatbread sandwiches, mezzes, prepared foods and baked goods. It has received both local and national press; Food & Wine, Metropolitan Home and Gourmet have all featured it as a place not to miss. For Kilpatrick, who oversees the pastry program here as well as at Oleana, Sofra is literally a spicy, sugary dream come true.
Cara Chigazola - Chef de Cuisine
Cara's culinary journey began when she was in high school. At the age of 17, after relocating from California where she was born and raised, she began working in the kitchen of a pizza shop in New Hampshire. In the years that followed, her desire to attend art school was replaced by a drive to develop her skills as a chef and toward that end Cara moved west again to complete her culinary degree in Monterey, California. After graduating as valedictorian of her class, Cara had a number of professional jobs along the west coast including Cetrella in Half Moon Bay, The Plumpjack Café in San Francisco, and at the Dream Inn Hotel in Santa Cruz, California.
When her husband had the opportunity to attend graduate school in Boston the newly weds moved just a few months after their wedding and Cara began looking for a new kitchen to call home. After just a few hours in the kitchen at Oleana, which also coincided with her birthday, she knew she had found it. Cara joined the Oleana team as the Sous Chef in the spring of 2010 and became the Chef de Cuisine in the summer of 2013.
She is driven by her passion to create and also to unite and inspire people. She is proud of the cuisine at Oleana, particularly for the delight and surprise it often brings diners unfamiliar with the food of the eastern Mediterranean. Her California roots continue to influence how she approaches food. Coming from an area that prides itself on freshness and variety year round, she seeks to feature the ingredients of the northeast while exploring the traditional flavors of the Middle East and Mediterranean.