10 Minutes With: Ana Roš

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 30th January 2017

She was recently crowned The World’s Best Female Chef by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants but how much do you know about Ana Roš of Hiša Franko in Kobarid, Slovenia?

There is no Michelin Guide for Slovenia so she has no stars but yet she is considered one of the best chefs in the world despite cooking under the radar for years. She has featured alongside the likes of Massimo Bottura, Francis Mallmann, Magnus Nilsson, Dominique Crenn and Enrique Olvera in the Netflix series Chef’s Table, and she was the first female chef to join Cook It Raw.
The Staff Canteen wanted to know more! We spoke to Ana, who cooked at Nigel Haworth’s Obsession 17 last week, about her restaurant and cooking style, how she finds being a woman in a male dominated industry and how she has created a fantastic chain of producers whose products influence her cuisine.

Ana Ros and her husband Valter: credit viewfromthepier.com

Ana Ros and her husband

Valter: credit viewfromthepier.com

Ana didn’t plan to be a chef and as she says ‘it’s a long story which has been told a lot of times’ but in brief she was a former ski champion on Slovenia’s national team and contemporary dancer who took up French, German, Spanish, English, and Italian—before heading to university in Italy to study diplomacy.

“I met my husband in the last year of university and I decided to change career, I graduated and then decided to stay at home and not take on a diplomatic career.”

It was in 2000 she found herself in charge of the restaurant when her husband Valter’s parents, the previous owners, decided it was too much. With Valter in charge of the wines, Ana set up in the kitchen. She admits that before this she didn’t have a great interest I cooking.

“I was a very busy child, I was into sports up until I was 18 and contemporary dance; so there really was no time for myself – I just expected a warm meal to be done, without questioning how to do it!

“It wasn’t even a classical home, my mother was a journalist so she was out of the house most of the time – we were cooking everything in the last moment. Cooking for me was down to circumstances, I had to try and express myself in the remote countryside in a place which has always been a restaurant.”

>>> Related: Ana Ros named World's Best Female Chef 2017

Ana is completely self-taught and she cooks old-meets new Slovenian cuisine which is influenced by the seasons and the

Ana Ros: Red deer heart, winter salad and rowan berry, buckwheat taco, yeast

Ana Ros Obsession 17: Red

deer heart, winter salad and

rowan berry, buckwheat taco, yeast

produce available to her. She started cooking quite late in comparison to many chefs on the world stage stepping into the kitchen at 30 years old.

“There was a moment where someone had to take over the kitchen, my husband was into the wine and cheese so the only option was that I do it. Being successful depends on your dedication, motivation and a little bit on your talent – it’s like someone can work hard to be a painter but you won’t necessarily become an important painter if you don’t have the talent.”

Ana’s restaurant is located in remote countryside so since she and her husband took over they have been building a supply chain of producers who they can get quality ingredients from in order to create a ‘good cuisine’.

“After all these years we have a fantastic chain of local products which are really memorable; from the dairy products in the high mountains to the fantastic wild trout and game as well as fantastic foraging as we have no industry around.

“Every year we work very hard to open this chain to new arrivals and all of my cuisine is built around this chain. It’s an expression of the territory through the products but it also has a lot to do with my personality and travelling. It’s a cuisine I would describe as local and seasonal by the products but it’s personalised by its expression.”

Ana’s film opened last year’s Chef’s Table increasing the restaurants notability outside of Europe and as she says it ‘opened the doors to the world’.

Cook it Raw - Ana Ros
Cook it Raw - Ana Ros 

“Our clients have become more international,” explained Ana. “We’ve had a lot of people from the States, Brazil, Australia – not just because they are looking for good food but they have come because of the restaurant.”

Slovenia does not have a Michelin Guide but as Ana explains there are 2 million people and a small percentage of interesting restaurants.

“There is no big reason why Michelin would come to Slovenia and make a guide for 2 million people when there are maybe 10 or 20 interesting restaurants. It’s difficult to make a guide like that and there is no market to sell it. There have been discussions about Michelin adding Slovenia to the Italy Guide – maybe one day they will create a guide based on the old Austro Hungarian empire, where all of the countries have interesting food culture but no guide. I think this could eventually be a very interesting food destination.”

She added: “We have a full restaurant and very happy guests – this is most important but sometimes when I travel to conferences I lose a lot of credibility when I’m the only one without stars. So on the positive having a guide would provide recognition but also without a guide we have a lot more freedom to express ourselves.”

In the hospitality industry there is still a need to differentiate between male and female chefs, women are awarded top accolades and rightly so but not simply as ‘the best chef’ the title usually includes ‘female’ – a little derogatory to some although it’s unlikely this is done with malice. So how has Ana found being a woman on a male dominated world stage?

“There are huge pluses and huge minuses to being a female chef; I was the first woman to be part of Cook It Raw and to be included in the Gelinaz shuffle so my first contact with this group of chefs was very difficult. I think some of them were unsure if a woman can cook and be part of this group.

Hotel Hisa Franko
Hotel Hisa Franko

“My first experience of Cook it Raw (described as an international gathering of culinary luminaries that explores possibilities of cuisine through four principles: tradition, creativity, collaboration and sustainability) all went wrong, I was stung by a bee and I had an allergic reaction while I was cooking and in front of all the journalists it looked like a girl just couldn’t do it. But three weeks later I was invited to do Gelinaz, with the same group of chefs, and I showed them I can be as good as they are and they respect what I do now. 

“I think at the end of the day in front of the guest we are all the same, nobody cares about how many children I have at home and whether I’m a good wife or not. There are plenty of obstacles which I think makes it harder than for men especially as a mother, I’m not a feminist but I think at the end of the day women need to help each other. But as I said the guest doesn’t care if you are a man or a woman, if the meal is not good they will never come back.”

>>> See more of Ana's dishes from Obsession 17 here

Ana Ros and Lisa Allen, Obsession 17

Ana Ros and Lisa Allen

Obsession 17

Continuing the theme of female chefs in the industry brings us nicely onto Obsession 17 at Michelin-starred Northcote. Nigel Haworth’s annual guest chef event sees many female chefs taking over the kitchen alongside his head chef Lisa Allen.

For Ana, Obsession is a new experience and she took her place in this year’s line-up after meeting Lisa in 2015 in India during a charity project.

“Lisa tried to bring me to Obsession last year but we couldn’t match the dates so I promised I would keep my schedule open for this one. I’m looking forward to it as I just got back from Scotland and I found incredible game, I’ve fallen in love with game from this part of the world!

"So my menu at Northcote is going to contain a lot of game birds which we don’t have so much here. I like taking on challenges so I put a lot of birds on the menu which I don’t know – we’ll be playing around with it which we always do and the results can be incredible.”

By Cara Houchen
@canteencara

>>> Ana will be at Taste of London this year, read more about it here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 30th January 2017

10 Minutes With: Ana Roš