Q&A: Ana Sortun of Oleana

Kristin Teig Photography

We’ve got Ana Sortun to thank for Boston’s infatuation with Eastern Mediterranean flavors. The brains behind three of the city’s most coveted restaurants—Oleana, Sarma, and Sofra—started washing dishes at age 14 and ended up graduating from Paris’s École de Cuisine La Varenne. It was while working at Casablanca, a now-shuttered Harvard Square institution owned by a Syrian, that Sortun was convinced to take a trip to Turkey—a voyage that would change the course of her life. Fueled by a newfound passion for Middle Eastern cuisine, she opened Oleana in 2001. After snagging the 2005 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Northeast, Sortun opened Sofra with business partner and pastry chef Maura Kilpatrick in 2008 and launched Sarma alongside chef Cassie Piuma in 2013. Devotees can channel her inspired cooking at home via two of her cookbooks, Spice and Soframiz.

Boston’s best dish:

Cassie’s Pumpkin Fritters with Harra Sauce at Sarma. Crispy Rice Salad at Oishii Too in Sudbury.

Guilty pleasure food:

Ice Cream.

Kitchen playlist:

Kermit Ruffins and Adele.

Favorite food destination:

Istanbul, hands down. No question.

Cooking inspiration:

Really, really, really good ingredients and really great cookbooks.

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