Spotlight: Ana Sortun


James Beard Award Winner

Chef + Owner of Oleana, Sofra and Sarma

Hosting Sugar + Spice Lunch at Oleana on 4/27 - tix still available!

With a degree from La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Paris, the Seattle-born Ana Sortun begun her career, when Sortun was still cooking what most people think of as typical Mediterranean food. People loved it. While at Casablanca, a friend invited Sortun to study in Turkey.

Eager to learn, she accepted. (“I imagined flying carpets and genies,” she says wryly.) When she arrived Sortun’s host and 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.

In August of 2008, Sofra was born. 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.  In 2013, Sortun opened yet another door for Chef Cassie Piuma, with the opening of Sarma in Somerville.  Sarma is a restaurant & bar where food, drink and music come together in a vibrant celebration of the good things in life. Modeled after the traditional meyhanes of Turkey, the menu is a large selection of small, seasonal plates ( meze ) that are designed to be shared. The flavors represent the Mediterranean and encourage food-friendly cocktails, craft beers or a glass of wine from a small but carefully selected list.

We are already salivating for Ana’s upcoming ShePartakes Sugar + Spice lunch on Wednesday, April 27th at noon. Tickets are still available for purchase here.

Posted in WhoIsShe?.