Winner of numerous awards, Ana has been invited to cook all over the world, discover her history and the features of her cooking.
When Ana Roš was a girl in a small town called Nova Gorica in the former Yugoslavia, she never dreamed she would one day become one of the world’s most famous chefs. Her mother recalled that she couldn’t even fry an egg. It was skiing rather than a skillet that was uppermost in the young Roš’s mind, and at the age of 7 she had already joined the national skiing team, where she remained for another 10 years. Little did she know that she would one day be crowned the world’s best female chef.
Her restaurant, Hiša Franko, in Kobarid, Slovenia, has become a major food destination in a country where the Michelin Guide has yet to tread. Set in the foothills of the lush Soča Valley, it aims to reflect the natural environment of the region, from the dramatic mountains to the emerald River Soca, down to the Adriatic Sea. Though Roš’s approach is highly technical, the emphasis is always on allowing the essence of local ingredients to shine through. For Roš, the beauty of rawness is paramount, and the element of surprise is a key facet of her cooking - contrasting temperatures, textures and flavours are a frequent motif.
She does not believe in signature dishes, since few dishes linger on her menu for long. Hiša Franko is a restaurant in perpetual forward motion, though some principles remain. All her ingredients are sourced from local foragers, producers and artisans that go back generations. And everything is seasonal. It is this sense of immediacy that informs her cooking, and which keeps everything at Hiša Franko vitally fresh.
But it was dishes such as her cauliflower ravioli with goat kid liver in broth with black truffles that captured the hearts of the culinary world. Every meal starts with bread, which might be made with fermented apple peel, and local butter. There might be a main of tripe, duck jus, cave sheese, fried nettles and chanterelles. For dessert, it could be sour milk ice cream with parsley granita and porcini crumble. No matter what appears on the extensive tasting menu, it is a true expression of the seasons and local environment, not to mention the chef’s own character, experience and femininity.
As a young woman, Roš trained to be a diplomat. She only became involved in food because the man she married, Valter Kramar, was the owner of Hiša Franko. She began helping out in the kitchen, and soon after that she was hooked. Her cooking gradually won notoriety, and in 2011 the restaurant was featured in a documentary on the French-German TV channel Arte. In 2012 Roš became the first female chef to join up with René Redzepi, Alex Atala and Daniel Patterson for the Cook It Raw event. And in 2016, Hiša Frako was featured on the Netflix series Chef’s Table, which brought Roš to the attention of the American market. Suddenly everything changed.
Bookings began to pour in, and demand for Ana Roš’s unique brand of hyper-natural Slovenian cuisine became all the rage with diners looking for a new kind of gastronomic experience. When not in the kitchen at Hiša Franko, Roš was able to indulge her great passion for travel by cooking all over the world. It came as no surprise to many when she was named Best Female Chef at the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in 2017, and Hiša Franko entered the top 100 for the first time at number 69. Not bad for a chef with no formal training other than a direct line to her mother-in-law’s knowledge of bread, meat and pasta.
With Ana Roš’s success comes a sense of social responsibility. In Milan she joined forces with Massimo Bottura at the Reffetorio Ambrosiano soup kitchen as part of his Food For Soul initiative. And in India she has cooked with the Creative Services Support Group, which supports and promotes education and employment for disadvantaged girls and young women. She remains an inspiration for female chefs everywhere.