It’s ironic that Ana Roš is lauded as an ambassador for her country. Once destined for a diplomatic career, Roš rebelled. In 2000, she and her then-partner, Valter, decided to take over his family business: Gostilna Franko, an osteria-style restaurant in a 19th-century building in Slovenia’s Soca Valley.
Having initially helped to manage the restaurant, in 2002 short staffing led Roš to step into the kitchen, where she soon discovered a passion for cooking and experimenting with flavors. She received some local recognition, but it took international journalists three years to take notice; when they did, it was all thanks to a trout broth served with steamed trout and liquid potato ravioli. “It was something that nobody had seen before,” she says.
Fast forward to 2021, and the restaurant now known as Hiša Franko occupies 38th place on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. An appearance on Netflix’s Chef’s Table in 2016 cemented Hiša Franko’s popularity — and Roš’s reputation — and in summer 2020 it became the first Slovenian establishment to be recognised by Michelin, receiving two stars. But these aren’t necessarily the achievements the chef is proudest of.
“The culture of gastronomy didn’t exist in the country,” Roš says of the time she started her culinary journey. “Together with my team, we’ve managed to raise the consciousness of the Slovenian people to think about what they eat and how they eat. We’ve raised the consciousness of the chefs to respect nature and the seasons. We’ve also raised the awareness of the government about the importance of gastronomy and the role it plays in our everyday social life, and it’s now considered as an important touristic product.”
Slovenia is one of Europe’s more compact countries, but it’s also one of the most diverse in terms of geography. You’ll find karsts on the Adriatic Sea in the south west, mountains in the north bordering Italy and Austria, a chain of peaks and rivers in the east — and it only takes 45 minutes to travel from the highest point to the sea. Traditional Slovenian cuisine, like the country’s topography, is varied; hearty and alpine in the hills, Mediterranean-style on the coast.
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