Slovenia’s Michelin Stars – the aftermath

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Happy – Curious – Surprised – Amazed – Disappointed – and finally, Courageous (some brave predictions for Michelin stars in Slovenia 2021).

The history of Slovenia’s Michelin stars may be short but, nevertheless, it’s led me through what feels like a lifetime of emotions. Here’s my story:

Happy

When it became clear last year that the Guide Michelin would finally have to include little Slovenia in its culinary vision, I was really pleased because it was long overdue. I’ve had what seemed to be a few obvious candidates on my list for a long time, and I was a little annoyed about the ignorance (or arrogance?) displayed by Michelin. At the top of my personal list, of course, was Ana Roš and Hiša Franko. And indeed the fact that Ana cooked herself into a place among the 50 best chefs in the world was what finally caused Michelin to turn its attention to Slovenia.

So I was happy.

Curious

Next, I was on tenterhooks! When I heard that Michelin inspectors were swarming through Slovenia, I couldn’t wait for the results of their testing. But my patience would have to remain unsatisfied for almost another year.

Surprised

Yes, I certainly was, when I finally heard the results. The biggest surprise was the number ‘7’. That’s an incredible 7 Michelin stars straight away for Slovenia. I never would have dared to dream of that.

The number ‘6’ was the next surprise. That’s 6 different restaurants awarded. Huge.

And then, the number ‘2’. 2 Michelin stars for Ana Roš, right from the start. I never would have believed that either.

I can now reveal my personal expectations. I had expected just two restaurants to be awarded, with one star for each of them. They were Hiša Franko, of course, and Gostilna pri Lojzetu in Zemono.

The nicest surprise for me was the Vila Podvin close to Radovljica with Uroš Štefelin. Next to Ana and Tomaž Kavčič, Uroš probably deserves his star the most for his unique way of modernising the traditional Slovenian cuisine.

Amazed

Yes, there was great astonishment. Not just at 6 restaurants being chosen, but at some of the choices. I totally understand Hiša Denk’s inclusion in the awards, but – please forgive me – there are two names on the list that would never have crossed my mind: the ‘Atelier’ in Ljubljana and The ‘Dam’ in Nova Gorica.

Disappointed

My amazement went hand in hand with disappointment. There were some other places whose names I really missed seeing on this list.

First and foremost, where was Janez Bratovž and his JB in Ljubljana. Or Igor Jagodic and the Strelec restaurant at the Castle in Ljubljana. The Gostilna Krištof with the brothers Krištof and Tomaž Bolka in the village of Predoslje close to Kranj. All sadly missed.

Courage

Now, taking a deep breath, here’s my look into the future.

It’s a lot harder to keep a Michelin star than it is to get it. The star on the door creates fear of entering, which leads to a change in the type of guests you can attract. Expenses for the cost of ingredients increase, along with higher salaries for superior staff… all of which have to be reflected in the prices on the menu. People’s eating and going out habits are constantly changing. All of these things raise the question of how a starred restaurant can survive and keep up the standards in the long run.

Many only manage with another sideline – perhaps running a hotel, writing a cookbook, appearing on a TV show – whatever. In Germany and Austria, some star-rated restaurants have voluntarily returned their star. So how will the Slovenes fare? I know that Slovenia has great potential for new stars. But who will be able to maintain the required standard? Will anyone decide to give up their star?

That’s a lot of questions, so I’m going to venture some answers with my forecast for 2021. I could, of course be completely wrong. But I am so brave! Here goes:

Ana Roš might lose one of her two stars if she is not focused enough on her guests and also the kitchen. She is a star at the moment and therefore has too many obligations, her new book promotion, presentations etc.

I do not put my hand in the fire for the stars of the Dam in Nova Gorica and the Atelier in Ljubljana. It will be a tough job for both to keep them.

Uroš Štefelin and the Vila Podvin could be a candidate for voluntarily renouncing their star.

New to the Michelin starry roster will be at least one of these three: Strelec, JB or Krištof.

And, last but not least, Slovenia’s youngest chef is high on my list as a potential Star newcomer. Keep your eye on the barely-20-year-old Irhad Jusić, who is currently cooking in Stara Gostilna in the coastal town of Piran.

So that’s my personal opinion on what’s happening, and going to happen, in the starry Michelin sky over Slovenia. I’d be very interested in YOUR opinion. ‘The Slovenia’ is going to run a small survey to find out what Slovenia’s foodies think about this topic, reporting its findings on an ongoing basis. I look forward to being happy – curious – surprised – and maybe even amazed!