Our Staff - Formaggio Kitchen South End

Our Staff

Kyra James, Valerie Gurdal, Julie Cappellano, and David Robinson

Kyra James, Valerie Gurdal, Julie Cappellano, and David Robinson

Valerie Gurdal, Owner
Valerie moved to the Boston area from Miami, FL in 1980 to pursue a college education. Before moving to Boston she spent 6 months living in Madrid with her aunt and uncle. While in Madrid she developed a love for the daily market experience of visiting her local cheesemonger, bakery, meat purveyor and various fruit and vegetable stands. After arriving in Boston she sought out similar shops with an eye for the unique and inspiring and she soon discovered Formaggio Kitchen. While working in the kitchen at the well-respected Cambridge restaurant Chez Nous, she became acquainted with Ihsan Gurdal from her frequent trips to the shop. In 1984, she decided to work at Formaggio Kitchen full-time. Throughout the late 1980’s the Valerie and Ihsan brought more and more exclusive items into the country from France, Italy and Spain. In 2000 Valerie opened South End Formaggio, the first store of its kind in the neighborhood. Since then Valerie and Ihsan have worked together to create in their stores the “market-experience” that inspired their love of food.

Julie Cappellano, General Manager & Wine Buyer
Julie graduated from the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont with a Culinary Arts Degree in 1998. She was assistant to Pastry Chef Karen Barker of Magnolia Grill (Durham, NC) when Karen won the James Beard Award for Best Pastry Chef in the country, and she also had the opportunity to cook at the James Beard House in New York in 2002 while working as a line cook at Elaine’s on Franklin (Chapel Hill, NC). Years of working a second job part-time in the cheese department of A Southern Season gourmet shop in Chapel Hill contributed to Julie’s move away from the heat of the kitchen and into the world of wine and cheese.

Julie relocated to Boston in 2003 and has been at Formaggio Kitchen South End ever since, becoming the wine buyer for the shop in 2004. Julie has narrowed the focus of the wine department to include many sustainably farmed, organic, and bio-dynamic wines as well as small-grower Champagnes. She has thus far made wine and cheese related tasting & buying trips to France, Spain, Germany, Austria, Portugal and Italy. Julie lives in the South End with her two young sons, who both love cheese.

David Robinson, Cheese Buyer
David learned to love food as a child growing up in Taos, New Mexico. He spent the first decade of his working life cooking in some of Boston’s finest restaurants, including Marcuccio’s and Radius, during which time he also traveled extensively through Italy and Spain. David eventually came to the realization that he didn’t want to spend his life in a professional kitchen, and his desire to continue working with food brought him to Formaggio Kitchen South End.

A trip to the Jura mountains to select wheels of Comté for the shop instilled a sense of respect for the cheese itself, and also for the immense amount sweat, tears and love that cheesemakers put into each wheel. Since he became the cheese buyer in 2010, he has traveled extensively through Europe in search of cheese.

Ross Wrangham, American Cheese Buyer and Beer Buyer
Ross spent his childhood divided between Massachusetts and rural Uganda, where he ate traditional local foods like grasshoppers and termites with mashed plantain, beans and peanuts, all grown by local friends and farmers. Spending summers with family in Scotland among sheep farmers and salmon/langoustine fishermen deepened his appreciation of the connection between people and the foods they produce. While studying evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado at Denver, Ross learned about the role microbial communities play in fermented foods. Here he also worked in a shop selling 120 varieties of tea, poured espresso at a local coffee shop, and consumed lots of hoppy beers.

Ross travels regularly to Vermont with Formaggio Kitchen colleagues to visit cheesemakers and choose our wheels of Cabot Clothbound Cheddar from the Cellars at Jasper Hill. He also takes buying trips to Europe and has visited cheesemakers in the Swiss Alps and in the Pyrénées Mountains of France. For some independent study, he traveled to Belgium to learn about spontaneously fermented beers and the rich tradition of Belgian gueuze.

Kyra James, Class Instructor, Private Events Coordinator, and Chocolate Buyer
Kyra grew up in Connecticut where food was front and center of holiday traditions and constant gatherings at home. She attended Syracuse University, and upon graduation worked in marketing. This job and her struggles with food allergies gave Kyra a new appreciation for food and where it comes from. She later attended Boston University where she graduated with a Masters in Gastronomy in May of 2013. Kyra started at Formaggio Kitchen South End part-time while in school in 2012, and moved to full-time after graduation, becoming a manager as well as chocolate and snack buyer. She is also an integral part of our Classes and Events Department. Her passion for learning about and sharing her knowledge of artisanal food is contagious, making her one of our most popular class instructors. Kyra travels on behalf of the Formaggio Kitchen family each winter to the San Francisco Fancy Food Show to seek out new products for the shop.

Patrick McKeeman, Chef
Chef Pat started started cooking at age 7, when he took his first cooking class. Pat entered the restaurant industry the hard way, starting at the bottom and working his way up from a dishwasher position at a deli. He worked hard to learn the basics by asking questions and paying attention. Before joining the Formaggio Kitchen South End staff in 2012, Pat had previous experience in running a kitchen, a deli, a catering department and a cheese department. He has a particular fondness for southern American and Tex-Mex cuisine, and he makes hot sauce and home-brews beer on his days off. Pat has been essential in fine-tuning and improving our catering menu, including adding new appetizers and popular entree options.

Hector Laureano, Catering Chef
Hector grew up in a small town in central New York. He first began cooking in his late teens when he met his girlfriend (now wife) in junior year of high school. Together they would bake each Friday night, trying new recipes and experimenting with  ingredients. Together they attended the New England Culinary Institute (NECI) in Montpelier, Vermont, and after graduating moved to Boston. Hector spent the summer of 2013 working at the historic Fenway Park in the EMC Club, and was lucky enough to experience a World Series winning season (Go Sox!). In the autumn of 2013 he began working at Formaggio Kitchen South End where he would eventually work his way up to the catering manager position. In his free time he enjoys writing fiction and reading anything he can get his hands on.