Her story will inspire her talented colleagues on their path to creating outstanding dishes, while Hiša Franko is a restaurant that has reinforced Slovenia’s place on the global gastro-map.
Following on from Elena Arzak (Spain’s Basque Country), May Chow (Hong Kong), Carme Ruscalleda (Spain), Dominique Crenn (California), Nadia Santini (Italy), Lidia Bastianich (New York), Helena Rizzo (Brazil), Bo Songvisava (Thailand) and Antonia Klugmann (Italy), Ana Roš from Slovenia is now queen of the world in the art of cooking for those with the most refined palates.
The recognition awarded by a jury of the British-based global culinary magazine Restaurant puts Ana Roš and Hiša Franko among the best chefs and restaurants in the world. This is not a prize for the best cook in a reality show, it is a whole lot more.
Only the best is good enough
"Of course I was happy, satisfied and proud after the award. Then I was a little fearful, too. Being the best of outstanding chefs, the top culinary artists, is a big responsibility and also a pressure, although it is great encouragement, too. Now I am under the microscope."
The pressure is even greater because now Hiša Franko is not just getting reservations from Slovenian guests, today the “whole world” is sitting at their table. People from other countries and even other continents are coming to treat themselves. People who are prepared to pay, but who demand something exceptional.
"I don’t have a classical chef’s training. I took courses in international studies and diplomacy at Trieste University, in Italy." Ana’s path from an amateur to being the World’s Best Female Chef took her by surprise, too. She explains that a few years ago her husband Valter inherited the family restaurant, Hiša Franko. This was not the challenge that Ana wanted, but she nevertheless rose to it. Although previously cooking held no thrill for her at all, her sporting and academic character, along with her perfectionism, gradually swayed her towards creativity and then even enthusiasm. In the beginning her mother-in-law taught her some of the basics of cooking, and Ana Roš still values what is local and Slovenian. She cooks with local products and sticks to the basics of the "zero kilometres" concept: fresh, alive, healthy.
Hiša Franko is a family restaurant, and while Ana is a culinary virtuoso, her husband enchants their guests with wine. Together they clearly create works of art. “The greatest chance of a dish becoming something outstanding is when its own flavours reflect its origin in the land, and that land’s tradition, season, people and folklore,” she says with conviction. The team at Hiša Franko realise that people first eat with their eyes, then they smell food, and only after this do they taste it.
"We do truly devote ourselves to each dish. Including its presentation, and not just its great taste. We have an advantage in our beautiful natural surroundings and traditional environment, with a hint of folklore. I am also of course inspired by the culinary tradition. My grandmothers were not from the Soča river area, but the river valley and its tradition are probably the primary treasure trove from which I draw knowledge, stories and basic recipes."
She describes the family restaurant thus: "Hiša Franko is a country house, and it has that kind of energy, which is increasingly a draw. This, too, makes us special.” She has also started thinking about Slovenian food design. “This story is still in its infancy. I’m collaborating with the Ljubljana Fine Art Academy. Some good ideas are emerging. But we are all struggling with a lack of time. I myself am currently on tour a lot. In February I came back from England, and then immediately travelled to Russia. Because of these tours, Hiša Franko was closed until the end of March."
Haute couture of Slovenian cuisine
Ana’s table is not limited to the classic Slovenian ingredients and dishes. Instead it is a presentation of Slovenia as a country that is sufficiently diverse and multi-coloured, sufficiently inspiring, healthy and alive, to keep reshaping what is traditional into ever new and different forms. On her plates you can find combinations of oxtail and elderflower, Kobarid potatoes and carrots from Livek, cabbage and whey and hazelnut, or ice cream of dark grapes and dehydrated spinach.
In a reflection on her relationship with nature, Ana Roš notes: "In my dishes you can feel the Love for the raw ingredients, Love for stuffed pasta, Respect for the environment, and also for the season. As for desserts, we start from scratch again: the same ingredients and still a play of sweet and savoury."
Tanja Glogovčan, Sinfo