Massachusetts native Cassie Kyriakides Piuma graduated with honors from Johnson & Wales University. She spent her last semester studying in Asia. While pursuing her culinary degree, she worked at Al Forno, a highly acclaimed restaurant in Providence, RI. After graduation she moved back to Boston where she worked in several notable kitchens including Sel de la Terre, Gourmet Caterers and The Butcher Shop.
After reading about Oleana in a magazine, Piuma dragged her mother through a blizzard in high heels to eat there. ("Can't we get pizza?" her poor mom begged. The answer was "No.") After dinner, Piuma went home and crafted a letter to Oleana's chef and owner, Ana Sortun, about her experience. "I just wanted to share with her how excited I was by the meal. I was mesmerized by her use of spice and her interpretation of colors and shapes."
She didn't expect the chef to get back to her, but she did – with a job offer. Piuma started at Oleana as a line cook in 2003; now she's chef de cuisine, a position in which she's given tremendous creative freedom by Chef Sortun. "I like to think that although our thoughts and creations are different," Piuma says, "we find a harmonious balance working together. We're always thinking, brainstorming, bouncing ideas off each other, working towards the next level."
Piuma strives to make smart, bold, flavor-drenched food that also has a bit of whimsy. "Something that tells a story," she explains. She calls on all her memories of food when making a dish – she collects them "like shells on a beach" – whether they come from restaurants she's worked or eaten in, cookbooks she's read or places she's traveled. When the chef de cuisine is at the stove, all of it goes onto the plate.
*****Watch Neighborhood Kitchens online to learn more about Oleana in Cambridge.
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About Neighborhood KitchensBuilding on a 35-year history of producing Latino and multicultural programming, WGBH’s award winning La Plaza team has a new offering — Neighborhood Kitchens, a series about the exploration of culture through food. Every week the show offers a unique window into immigrant communities in New England.
Saturdays at 4pm on WGBH 2
Fridays at 7:30pm on WGBH 44
About the Author
On the GoIn each episode, host Margarita Martínez visits a different ethnic restaurant and learns three delicious recipes from the chef. She also explores the restaurant’s neighborhood, discovering hidden gems along the way. Join her as she learns about new ingredients, new cultures, and new neighborhoods. ¡Hasta pronto!
Watch: Full Episodes
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Margarita's Neighborhood Visits
»Boston: Bristol Lounge
»Boston's South End: Orinoco, Teranga and Oishii
»Boston's Back Bay: Casa Romero
»Boston's North End: Taranta
»Boston's Beacon Hill: Scampo
»All Around Boston: Mei Mei Street Kitchens
»Cambridge: Muqueca, Oleana, and Sandrine's
»Somerville: Dosa Temple
»Lawrence: Cafe Azteca
»Lowell: Simply Khmer
»Fresh from the Fish Market
»Jamaica Plain: Tres Gatos
»Dorchester: Pho Le and Cafe Polonia
»Medford: Bistro 5
»Portland, ME: Emilitsa
»Newport, RI: Tallulah on Thames
»Pawtucket, RI: Rasoi
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