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.
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.
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.
Ana is an expert for Fine Cooking