Rising Star Chef Ana Sortun of Oleana - Biography

Cambridge, MA

August 2014

If speaking French is one way to lay the foundations of a cooking career, the two years Seattle native Ana Sortun spent in her local L'Ecole Francaise were well invested. Fluent in French before 20, Sortun moved to Paris, attending La Varenne École de Cuisine and worked as a stagiare. Sortun credits her travels abroad as a major influence in her cooking. She apprenticed at the two-star Michelin rated Neichel Restaurant in Barcelona, Spain, with time spent in top kitchens in Turkey, Italy, and France.

Returning to the United States in the early 1990s, Sortun opened Moncef Medeb’s Aigo Bistro in Concord, Massachusetts. Stints at 8 Holyoke and Casablanca in Harvard Square, and a slew of national press attention soon followed. When Sortun opened Oleana in 2001, she quickly drew raves for her creative combination of farm-fresh ingredients and eastern Mediterranean spice blends. In 2002, she was named a StarChefs.com Rising Star Chef.

Sortun received the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef, Northeast” award in 2005. And her cookbook, Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean, was published in 2006 and nominated for “Best International Cookbook” by the James Beard Foundation. Perhaps more pivotally, 2006 also brought the addition of Siena Farm, owned and farmed by Sortun’s husband, Chris Kurth. Named for their daughter, the farm provides Sortun with fresh, organic produce for an expanding empire.

In late June, 2008 Sortun and Pastry Chef Maura Kilpatrick open Sofra, a Middle Eastern café and bakery in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And most recently, Sortun partnered with protegée Cassie Piuma to open Sarma in Somerville, modeled after a Turkish mayhane (or tavern). A 2014 James Beard “Outstanding Chef” nomination, mong her many accomplishments, solidifies her as a leading female chef, and, as Mimi Sheraton said in her memoirs, one of the “best creative fusion practitioners” in the country.