Ana Roš is the amazing chef of Hiša Franko, who together with her husband Valter Kramar, who manages the front of house and is the restaurant’s sommelier, has turned a traditional country inn that Valter’s parents used to run into a world class fine dining restaurant and guesthouse that is helping put Slovenia on the world culinary map.
Slovenian and Italian foodies have known about the exceptional quality of Hiša Franko for years though in 2016/2017 word of Ana’s talents spread like wild fire – first she appeared on Netflix’s Chef’s Table series, then she was named the world’s best female chef in 2017, then shortly after Hiša Franko was awarded the title of Best Restaurant in Slovenia in the inaugural The Slovenia Restaurant Awards and as if that wasn’t enough Ana and Valter’s contemporary country inn was also ranked among the world’s best 100 restaurants.
So what does Slovenia’s culinary superstar have to say about all this and her path to success….
You’ve just got a ton of awards. Was this all part of your grand plan?
There had never been a plan for awards. We simply try to focus on our work and on our quality. If we were working in another country with more international recognition, everything would be much faster… But when things happen slowly, the base is more solid, with less risk to fail.
Why did it take this long for word to get out about Hiša Franko? Have you become a better chef? And/or was Slovenia not yet on the world culinary map?
Slovenia is not yet on a culinary map, we need a bigger community of chefs who stand up together, work together and especially a community that shares.
How do you keep your feet on the ground? What do you do when you have time off?
Every morning I wake up between 6 and 7am and after having had breakfast with my children I go running, hiking or do yoga. It keeps me fresh, stress free and in a good psychophysical form.
When did you fall in love with cooking…before or after you stepped into the kitchen at Hiša Franko?
It was not love on the first sight. I started cooking because I needed to survive. But then I found it an immense challenge, so many unwritten papers.
How hard was it becoming a chef without training? Do you now wish you’d gone to culinary school instead of studying international relations?
Never. I am different because I never did schools. My kitchen is different because I never did schools. Passion, motivation and talent are sometimes a lot more. And dedication.
Were you always so creative or is this something you’ve embraced since becoming a Chef?
I consider myself a very creative personality. I was a dancer with an immense talent. And I always enjoyed writing. As a student I was earning enough money for my life as an occasional journalist. I had my dance group. I found my personal way how to teach kids how to ski. This is how I am.
What’s your favourite ingredient/dish for each season?
Fresh and local. My favourite taste changes every day.
You’re now an ambassador for Slovenian gastronomy. What do you tell foreigners about Slovenia, its food and wine?
Slovenia is a tiny country with fantastic geographical diversity and strong cultural and food traditions all around us/Italy, Austria, Balkans, hungarian lowlands. All this strong identities influence us a lot.
You’re just minutes from the Italian border…how do the two country’s cuisines and food cultures differ?
Historically and geographically we naturally are a part of the Friuli hills and lowlands. Our cooking, our language is more similar to the eastern part of Italy then to Slovenia. There is a great trattoria in Cerniglons, close to Udine which stil cooks the way Valter’s grandmother has been cooking at home. Tripes with spices, hard polenta…
Hiša Franko is not just your restaurant but your family’s home…do your kids get tired of squid, sweetbreads and aged Tolminc for dinner? Or is your family dinner a more relaxed affair?
We are a family of 30 people from all around the world in this moment. My children are a part of this community, they share meals with us. It is a great international food because every day there is someone else in charge of the meals. Emilly likes cooking asian, Vladka is more into polenta and tradition, Črt brings out mediterranean, Alex great Italian, I would cook just vegetables. This makes our food life very diverse and funny.
Interview conducted by James Cosier; Edited by Yuri Barron