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.
Cassie Kyriakides Piuma - Chef De Cuisine
Rising Star – Improper Bostonian, 2009
Massachusetts native Cassie Kyriakides Piuma graduated with honors from Johnson & Wales University. She spent her last semester studying in Asia. While pursuing her culinary degree, she worked at Al Forno, a highly acclaimed restaurant in Providence, RI. After graduation she moved back to Boston where she worked in several notable kitchens including Sel de la Terre, Gourmet Caterers and The Butcher Shop.
After reading about Oleana in a magazine, Piuma dragged her mother through a blizzard in high heels to eat there. ("Can't we get pizza?" her poor mom begged. The answer was no.) After dinner, Piuma went home and crafted a letter to Sortun about her experience. "I just wanted to share with her how excited I was by the meal. I was mesmerized by her use of spice and her interpretation of colors and shapes."
She didn't expect the chef to get back to her, but she did – with a job offer. Piuma started at Oleana as a line cook in 2003; now she's chef de cuisine, a position in which she's given tremendous creative freedom by Chef Sortun. "I like to think that although our thoughts and creations are different," Piuma says, "we find a harmonious balance working together. We're always thinking, brainstorming, bouncing ideas off each other, working towards the next level."
Piuma strives to make smart, bold, flavor-drenched food that also has a bit of whimsy. "Something that tells a story," she explains. She calls on all her memories of food when making a dish – she collects them "like shells on a beach" – whether they come from restaurants she's worked or eaten in, cookbooks she's read or places she's traveled. When the chef de cuisine is at the stove, all of it goes onto the plate.