Chef, Owner, Oleana, Sofra Bakery and Cafe, Cambridge, MA, Massachusetts, Boston, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Spice, Where to eat in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, PA, Instanbul, Turkey, Markets, Midtown, Portland, ME, Maine, Spices, Barcelona, Spain, Markets, Restaurants, Bars, Cocktails, Drinks, Where to drink, Where to shop


Ana Sortun earned her degree from La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Paris, worked in several Massachusetts restaurants, and studied in Turkey before opening up Middle Eastern restaurant Oleana in 2001. She was awarded the Best Chef: Northeast honor by the James Beard Foundation in 2005.

Since 2006, Siena Farms (which is owned and farmed by the Sortun’s husband, Chris Kurth) has been providing Oleana with most of its fresh, organic produce.


Q. Wine Director Cat Silirie raved about your food and your wine program, how would you describe your approach and what are some of your favorite food and wine/drink pairings from your menu?

A. What sets us apart from other Mediterranean restaurants is our use of spice. We use spice in an Eastern Mediterranean way by creating rich layers of flavor without making the food heavy to eat.

The wine program which Theresa Paopao created has a similar approach; complex flavor, but not heavy bodies. I love the Greek style whites we serve right now with just about any of our mezze. It works with quail that is rubbed with green, hot spices and served over grilled fennel and nectarine and it also works with whipped feta that has sweet and hot peppers in it.   

Advice / Tips

Q. Spice blender Lior Lev Sercarz recommended your restaurant for the spice combinations. What are 3 spices and herbs combos that could gussy up any dish and how to use them?  

A. The combination of dried spearmint, sumac, and Aleppo chiles is one of my favorites. It gussies up chicken, fish and vegetable dishes. 

Q. The best tool/gadget you can buy for your kitchen with ten dollars is...

A. A bench scraper. You can use it to scape bowls instead of a spatula, stir big quantities of ingredients in a bowl, and clean the counter.

Q. with a hundred dollars is...

A. An All Clad pan. Good quality, heavy saute pans or saucepans that last a life time are essential.

Q. Among your fellow chefs, whom do you admire and/or look to for advice?  

A. Barbara Lynch for her vision and energy.

Steve Johnson taught me everything about eating local.

Cat Silirie taught me so much about wine with food.

Sam Hayward is so smart about his ingredients and he goes to all ends of the world to find the best.

Greg Malouf does beautiful books that inspire and continue to inspire me and has amazing disposition and talent.

Dan Barber for his respect for the earth and his talents of pure and simple. I love Ken Oringer’s casual concepts for neighborhood restaurants and his thinking outside of the box.

Q. You have a young daughter, Siena. What’s it like as a chef to take a kid out to restaurants?

A. Being a mom and chef has taught me about patience! It's also taught me a lot about how a palate develops watching my child eat. She eats everything! At 5, her favorite foods are artichokes, prosciutto, edamme, tobiko & hummus.

Kids will try everything if you don’t make a big deal about it and if you offer them what you are eating.



Q. Any recommendations for where to source quality and unique spices? 

A. Lior at La Boîte à Epice is a wizard with blending. No other person in the world has his sense for balance (maybe a perfume maker?).  The quality of spices he sources, combined with his wizard-like sense of balance and his creative mind is magic

[See details.]

Q. What are some special or unique ones to be on the lookout for?

A. Ana spice! A blend of my favorite spices.

Q. Are there food markets around the world that you love?

A. The spice bazaar in Istanbul for the smells and the chaos.

La Boqueria in Barcelona for the variety.

Siena Farms Stand, my husband’s vegetable stand at Copley Square.

[See details.]

Q. What’s your favorite Middle Eastern cookbook you’d recommend or a cookbook you love to use for constant reference? 

A. Claudia Roden has a friendly approach to Middle Eastern cooking and is the perfect book to cook from at home.

Paula Wolfert’s books are for learning the rules about Middle Eastern cuisine. 

Greg Malouf’s book for breaking all the rules and taking a modern approach. 

[See details.]


Q. What other restaurants in the states are cooking really authentic Middle Eastern cuisine and what is it that you love about them? 

A. There aren’t many in this country.

Zahav for its bread and Michael is an amazing, creative mind. 

Taboon in New York City has the best hummus I've ever had. 

Zaytinya in DC for just about every single bite. It's a wonderful blend of Greek and Turkish cuisine.

[See details.]

Q. When not at your own restaurants, where do you love to dine in Boston?

A. Toro for tapas.

B&G for oysters.

Oishi Too in Sudbury. I can’t eat sushi anywhere else, I'm so spoiled by them.

O Ya for a special night.

Angela’s for Mexican food.

[See details.]

Q. Off the beaten track, that you'd be excited to take an adventurous eater?

A. Belle Isle Seafood for the best lobster roll.

[See details.]

Q. That won’t break the bank, but has killer food?  

A. Shawarma King for chicken shawarma and hummus.

[See details.]

Q. Favorite neighborhood spot to eat? 

A. Hungry Mother: it’s all good.

[See details.]

Q. Other places you’ve discovered on your travels that you would want to return to? 

A. Ciya in Istanbul: order everything.   

[See details.]


Q. What places do you like for cocktails /wine and what do you like about the place?  

A. Drink in Boston, not overcrowded. 

No 9 Park for the best wine list in the world.

[See details.]

Q. Most interesting mixer/beverage you’ve recently discovered and what you like about it? 

A. Mint Julep done the old fashioned way. Impossible to drink fast. Savoring every sip

[See details.]

Q. Can we get you to share a recipe?

A. Spoon Lamb, Moroccan Style Beets, Baked Goat Cheese with Butternut Squash Broth, Pickled Mushrooms, Pomegranate Spoon Salad, Red Lentil Kofte, Syrian Spice Mix, Syrian Spiced Feta Salad, Hot Pepper Labne.



- Cat Silirie, Wine Director/Wine Buyer for Barbara Lynch Gruppo in Boston

- Lior Lev Sercarz, spice maker / owner of La Boîte À L'Epice


Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean


Chef Ana Sortun’s recommendations on where to eat and drink in Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Washington DC, Portland ME, Istanbul.



Details of chef Ana Sortun’s recommendations on where to eat and drink in Boston.


Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean

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Q & A




Middle Eastern

134 Hampshire Street

Cambridge, MA o2139 (view map)

T: 617.661.0505 (make a reservation)



Sun - Thu: 5:30pm - 10pm

Fri - Sat: 5:30pm - 11pm



Middle Eastern Bakery

One Belmont Street

Cambridge, MA 02138 (view map)

T: 617.661.3161



Mon - Fri: 8am - 7pm

Sat - Sun: 8am - 6pm