World’s Best Female Chef 2017: Ana Roš is the Reason International Diners Are Flocking ​to Slovenia

World’s Best Female Chef 2017: Ana Roš is the Reason International Diners Are Flocking ​to Slovenia

Roš is bound to her homeland of Slovenia by a metaphysical
pull. Invisible strings keep her from roaming too far from the
family homestead in the Soča Valley.

Roš has achieved a level of success that would allow her to live
anywhere, to open restaurants in numerous global reaches and pursue
a never-ending promotional tour of culinary endeavours, yet she
remains tied to the village of Kobarid, surrounded by mountain
peaks, sparkling emerald-green rivers and family. From that
description alone, you can understand why.

Having put Slovenia firmly on the culinary map, international
diners now scramble for a table at Hiša Franko and for the
opportunity to try Roš’s food first hand… and that’s just the way
she likes it.

“People still see Slovenia as a little province of the
Austro-Hungarian Empire,” says Roš. “Sometimes we have people come
to the restaurant thinking, ‘Who said Slovenia could have good
food?’ There’s still a lot of education required.”

In January, Roš received the World’s Best Female Chef 2017 award
from The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, an honour she describes as,
“motivation to stay in the kitchen and not forget who I am.” But
Roš never planned to become a chef and her path to kitchen fame has
been anything but conventional.

After her husband’s (Valter), parents retired in 2000, leaving
their restaurant without a charge, Roš, who was three months
pregnant at the time and had no formal culinary training, turned
her back on a career as a diplomat and began to teach herself to
cook. Valter took responsibility for sourcing and serving wine and
together they travelled the world, visiting restaurants and
building their dream together of a dining destination in

The early years were fraught with mistakes but Roš was
determined to become a success. “Failure is an engine for life,”
she says. “If you accept that you can fail, it makes you fight

Roš immersed herself in books and learned the fundamental
techniques from friend, Matej Tomažic, who runs a bed and breakfast
called Majerija near Slovenia’s border with Austria and Italy. She
and Valter continued to invest in trips around the world, marking
off pillars of fine dining. They were soon accompanied by their
children, Svit and Klara, who spent their formative years dining in
many of the world’s great restaurants. “I was breastfeeding in The
Fat Duck,” she recalls.

Back in Slovenia, Roš continued her studies. She met with local
producers and suppliers and became educated in the land. “One of
the things I’m proudest of,” she explains, “is how we have built a
chain of producers no one knew about 10 to 15 years ago and helped
to create a sustainable market for their products.”

The menu at Hiša Franko developed into a seasonal checklist of
ingredients rooted in the food traditions of Slovenia, a country
with a rich culinary history but also influenced by Slavic,
Italian, German and Austrian cultures. It became an intensely
personal menu with many ingredients grown in the restaurant’s
vegetable garden. Other dishes took on a more amusing disguise,
such as raw deer heart tartare on a buckwheat taco, designed as a
“revenge dish” and a warning to those “curious deers who dig up my

Other staples such as lamb are from the neighbouring village of
Drežnica and local Krskopolje pork is also sourced – the only
Slovene autonomous pig breed. Roš also collaborates with
conservationists, fisheries and other chefs to raise awareness of
the marble trout, a species native to the rivers of the Soča Valley
that is in danger of extinction, and has engaged a new audience in
the process.

The Michelin Guide does not exist in Slovenia, but Roš has
brought attention to her country without the need of stars and
international food guides. It’s taken 15 years of negotiating
family and professional life to achieve the dream of a restaurant
and Roš is at pains to highlight the commitment and sacrifices gone
into her success, “When I work 18 hours in the kitchen I am not
with my children, and when I’m with my children, my brigade, my
clients and my restaurant miss me a lot,” she said during her
speech at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. “There’s always someone
missing me a lot. In the last year I realised that in the mad race
to be successful and to survive, I would still put my children in
the first and only place.”

With the restaurant placing 69 in this year’s World’s 50 Best
Restaurants list, a position Roš poked fun at during her acceptance
speech, calling the position, “the sexiest number in the world” and
her World’s Best Female Chef award, Roš has earned the highest
culinary accolade she could bring to her nation. Her appearance on
Chef’s Table thrust her into an even brighter light and her
philanthropy work, during which she mentors underprivileged girls
in India and cooked with recovering drug addicts in Brazil, has
developed into an even greater personal joy and responsibility.

So what does the future hold for the World’s Best Female Chef?
“I want to keep feeding my curiosity and increase my knowledge in
gastronomy,” she says. “I’ll continue to travel and learn about
different cultures and techniques, but Slovenia’s time is coming
and I want to be there when it hits.”

Roš continues, “I adore my home: drinking coffee at Cinca
Marinca in Kobarid, close to the World War I Museum, having lunch
at Topli Val in Hotel Hvala; enjoying the outdoors with my family,
cycling, skiing (Roš skied for the Yugoslav national team until the
age of 18) and running along the rivers, taking shade under Matajur
Mountain. Maybe I’ll open another restaurant one day, but it would
be here, at home in this part of the world.”

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