How Ana Ros, One of the World’s Best Chefs, Put Slovenia on the Culinary Map



“Remodeling Areas” is a collection about ladies driving change in typically surprising locations.

When Ana Ros grew to become the pinnacle chef at Hisa Franko, a restaurant within the Slovenian countryside, she had no expertise cooking professionally or working a restaurant. She had by no means gone to culinary college, nor had she dreamed of being a chef as a little bit lady. In school, her pals “escaped” when it was her flip to cook dinner communal meals, she stated, as a result of they didn’t like her meals.

Quick ahead 20 years, and she or he is now one of many world’s most celebrated cooks, incomes her restaurant worldwide accolades and placing Slovenia, a small nation in Central Europe, on the map as a culinary sizzling spot.

The world of tremendous eating remains to be a boys’ membership: About 6 % of Michelin-starred eating places are run by ladies, in line with a 2022 evaluation by Chef’s Pencil, a web based publication about cooking and the restaurant world.

When she took the job, in 2002, she was 30 and pregnant. Her associate on the time, Valter Kramar, had inherited the modest household eatery from his dad and mom two years earlier. “I entered the small kitchen, closed the door, leaned towards the wall and thought, ‘Ana what did you simply do?’” Ms. Ros stated.

At present, Hisa Franko employs 45 folks and has two Michelin stars and a spot as one of many World’s 50 Greatest Eating places on an annual listing from William Reed, a British media firm. The corporate granted Ms. Ros the award for finest feminine chef in 2017.

“Ana blends a world outlook with hyperlocal sourcing,” William Drew, the director of content material for the World’s 50 Greatest Eating places, wrote in an e-mail. He added that as a result of Ms. Ros is self-taught, “her dishes don’t really feel the necessity to comply with any preconceived guidelines however are designed to showcase the components and specialties of her homeland to best impact.”

Hisa Franko is within the Soca Valley, a distant mountainous area named after the emerald-green river working by means of it. It’s near Slovenia’s borders with Italy and Austria and is thought for its lush greenery and pristine water.

In her first days on the job, Ms. Ros dreamed of remodeling Hisa Franko right into a journey vacation spot. She wished folks from surrounding cities to go to for a style of native components and intense flavors.

She had no abilities at the moment to execute her imaginative and prescient however had pure instincts. “The way in which a painter sees colours, I see flavors,” she stated. Ms. Ros is now identified for making use of world-class strategies to native components — trout from the Soca River, cheese aged within the cellar, porcini from the forest close by. She doesn’t do signature dishes; the whole lot is seasonal.

Final 12 months, she opened Pekarna Ana, a bakery in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, and in February, she opened a pop-up bistro in that metropolis referred to as Ana in Slon. The primary everlasting location of the bistro will open in Ljubljana this fall.

The prime minister of Slovenia, Robert Golob, who has identified Ms. Ros since 2012, considers himself a fan. “Hisa Franko is an envoy of our nation as a culinary vacation spot,” he wrote in an e-mail.

However in her profession, Ms. Ros described going through added scrutiny due to her gender. Individuals within the trade have typically referred to as her a “advertising and marketing story,” she stated, assuming she didn’t have the expertise to justify her success. Throughout visits to her restaurant, the place a multicourse tasting menu prices 255 euros ($280), colleagues have been typically stunned by the standard of the meals. “Why are you stunned?” she stated. “After all, they assume Hisa Franko is the place it’s, and I’m the place I’m, as a result of I’m a lady.”

Ms. Ros took a circuitous path to the kitchen. Rising up within the Eighties in Tolmin, a brief drive from Hisa Franko, she was a aggressive skier on the Yugoslavian nationwide youth workforce from about age 10 to 17. She was additionally as soon as a dancer and was a diligent scholar. After an harm, she determined to forgo her athletic profession and examine worldwide relations on the College of Trieste in Italy, with plans to develop into a diplomat. She speaks seven languages, together with Italian, English and French.

“How do you remodel your self from somebody who isn’t a cook dinner to somebody who’s defining your nationwide delicacies?” requested Brian McGinn, an govt producer for “Chef’s Desk,” a Netflix collection wherein every episode explores the life and work of 1 chef all over the world. The present featured Ms. Ros in its second season in 2016. “It’s a testomony to how sturdy and devoted she is, how opinionated she is, how imaginative she is, that she was in a position to carve this path that nobody thought she would be capable of.”

Mr. McGinn described Ms. Ros’s model as “avant-garde.” Take into account a few of the dishes on the 2022 menu: carrot kebab with grapefruit; barley with pork broth and rose water; and beef tongue with seaweed crystal.

To coach herself, within the early years after she began the job, Ms. Ros researched components and cooking strategies, attended meals conferences and experimented with growing recipes. “I used to be cooking from morning to nighttime, and at night time I used to be going to the books attempting to grasp what went unsuitable,” she stated. She and Mr. Kramar visited eating places all over the world for inspiration.

Because the years handed, she helped popularize Slovenian delicacies. She was invited to conferences and occasions with well-known colleagues, just like the cooks René Redzepi, of Noma in Copenhagen, and Eric Ripert, of Le Bernardin in New York. However when Netflix invited her to be on “Chef’s Desk,” few visitors have been visiting on weekdays or throughout the winter, and Hisa Franko was nonetheless comparatively unknown exterior Slovenia.

Then the episode premiered. “It broke down our reservation system,” Ms. Ros stated. “It broke down our lives, truly. We weren’t prepared.” Inside a couple of days, Hisa Franko was booked for the 12 months.

She continued her labor-intensive work on the restaurant — “I used to be nonetheless peeling potatoes and making bread,” she stated — whereas fielding interview requests and being acknowledged in public on the streets of Melbourne, San Francisco and New York. The sudden inflow of patrons, together with the newfound fame, overwhelmed her. She and Mr. Kramar break up up on the finish of 2017. (They nonetheless personal the restaurant collectively; Ms. Ros married City Stojan, a venture supervisor at an vitality firm, on New 12 months’s Eve in 2022.)

“I collapsed,” she stated. “I wanted to utterly reset how I used to be working.” She employed extra employees members (and took up yoga) and had her life again so as by fall 2018. “At present, I can have my folks baking within the bakery, I can cook dinner at residence, I can do my tv look,” she stated. “I can have my regular on a regular basis life with out struggling a lot.”

Ms. Ros lives within the Soca Valley, the place seasonal tourism drives the native restaurant business. She stated that earlier than her look on “Chef’s Desk,” visitors tended to anticipate dishes like pizza, schnitzel and spaghetti with clams. “As a substitute, we had espresso pasta with trout,” Ms. Ros stated. When she first began experimenting with offbeat dishes, she stated, many visitors would go away as quickly as they noticed the menu. However ultimately, surprising mixtures have been what earned her acclaim.

“She would are available saying, ‘I used to be dreaming yesterday — let’s put this and this collectively,’” stated Natasha Djuric, who was the previous head baker at Pekarna Ana, Ms. Ros’s bakery offshoot, and who additionally labored for 3 years at Hisa Franko, till 2022. “She feels the dishes on some energetic stage.”

At present, practically each ingredient the kitchen makes use of comes from inside 50 kilometers (about 30 miles), and there are a number of dozen folks in Hisa Franko’s provider chain, Ms. Ros stated, together with shepherds, foragers, fisherman and a duo who develop New Zealand spinach, Mexican tarragon and extra at a biodynamic farm on a mountaintop.

This community of restaurant staff and native producers confronted main challenges throughout the first pandemic lockdown in March 2020. Farmers who have been struggling to promote their merchandise as a result of eating places and cafes have been shut down referred to as Ms. Ros. “We now have 1000’s of lambs we will’t promote, tens of 1000’s of liters of milk we’re going to throw away,” Ms. Ros recalled them saying.

Hisa Franko was closed, and its employees couldn’t go away the nation due to lockdown restrictions. The restaurant workforce used the farmers’ components to supply packaged meals to promote in supermarkets. “We’d provide you with a inventive recipe, like gnocchi with ricotta with roasted poppy seeds and tarragon,” Ms. Ros stated. Then her workforce scaled the recipe till it “tasted like a grandmother made it for 10 folks, however for 10,000 parts.”

Ms. Ros discovered a associate in Tus, a grocery store chain in Slovenia, and the primary merchandise hit cabinets by October 2020. The road encompasses dozens of things right now, together with apple strudel sorbet, steak tartare, candied cherry tomatoes in oil and noodles with juniper berries.

As she displays on her profession, Ms. Ros is reminded of a meal she cooked in northern Poland in 2012 for Cook dinner It Uncooked, an invitation-only occasion the place cooks find out about meals traditions and strategies in a particular area of the world. Her cohort included Mr. Redzepi and Albert Adria, a famed restaurateur in Barcelona and the brother of Ferran Adria. (The siblings are identified for the now-closed El Bulli.)

The occasion “all went unsuitable,” Ms. Ros stated. She missed her flight and arrived late. When the group went canoeing, her vessel flipped. A canine bit her finger, and she or he wanted stitches. And when she was getting ready the ultimate meal, a bee stung her, and she or he had an allergic response. “Everyone was like, ‘Have a look at Bridget Jones,’” she stated. “‘All the pieces goes unsuitable. The lady doesn’t belong right here.’”

In the long run, she swept away the visitors and different cooks together with her meal of beets, pine-smoked apples and fish foam. She stated the second had confirmed her that the strain to carry out might affect each interplay for ladies within the trade, and that one second might make or break a repute. “We’re not given sufficient probabilities,” she stated.

However she doesn’t let assumptions about her get beneath her pores and skin, she stated. “Remaining devoted to your self is usually actually painful, however it pays off,” she stated, including: “I at all times assume there’s a greater strategy to cook dinner or a greater taste mixture, and in the long run, that is the one fulfilling factor. All the remaining, it comes and goes.”