Home Cooking with Ana Roš: on being a self-taught chef and making Hiša Franko a home

Giulia Sgarbi - 18/03/2019

In the first instalment of 50 Best’s Home Cooking series, presented by Miele, we catch a glimpse of Ana Roš’s routine working and living inside her restaurant and home, Hiša Franko, in Kobarid, Slovenia. The World’s Best Female Chef 2017 opens up about her family, how running helps her deal with the challenges of the restaurant and what it means to be a self-taught cook.

Read the interview with the chef, watch the video and discover how Roš makes her hearty winter broth and beef tongue.

Hiša Franko is our restaurant, but also our home. When you walk through the door, you get the feeling of a home right away. There are personal objects and photos everywhere. There are three generations living here: my children, my parents in law, and my husband and me. It’s a very special place.

Hiša Franko is an old house dating back to 1860. It has been a farmhouse, a hospital during the First World War, an abandoned house, then my parents in law took it over in 1970 and opened a restaurant in 1973. In 2000, it was passed down to a new generation when they gave the house to Valter, my husband. This is how we started a new story and a new history for Hiša Franko.

Hiša Franko

It would be difficult to be more self-taught than I am. I studied international sciences and diplomacy, I was supposed to become a diplomat and I actually never cooked as a child. I was really into sports, so I normally came home from competitions or training and a meal had already been cooked for me. When I took over the kitchen, I started from zero. As a self-taught chef, I don’t have limits in my head.

After I took over Hiša Franko, it actually never closed its doors. We needed to have clients because we needed to survive, so I never had a chance to do stages anywhere. This means that as a chef, I don’t really belong to any of the cooking schools, I’m not influenced by any big chef, I’m just myself. Sometimes I say I’m my own hero.

At the beginning I struggled with so many things. I made mistakes, but sometimes great recipes were born from mistakes.

Our products are 100% local. I usually say that if you are standing on top of the mountain and you look around, you can see all the places from where we source. The products are not globalised, they have never travelled anywhere, so they have very original and different flavours.

View over Kobarid, Slovenia

There is a fantastic story about the goats from Drežnica. In the 1950s, the Yugoslav authorities wanted to make sure that all goats in the area were killed, because the forest was disappearing and goats eat a lot of it. But the people from Drežnica are very attached to their goats, they’re their pets and they depend on them for milk and meat. They decided they were not going to obey. When the inspector from Belgrade and Ljubljana came, they hid all the goats in the church. Everybody was happy and this is how the indigenous Slovenian goat survived.

My kids had to become independent very quickly and take care of themselves, because I was working most of the time, but I really try to dedicate all my time off to them. They are 14 and 15 years old, very sporty and social, and they have an incredible social intelligence.

My father has always been a hunter. It’s an escape for him to be alone in the mountain, he’s not always killing animals but just observing and taking care of them. Sometimes Hiša Franko buys the animals that he hunts. We just had a huge deer, some parts of the meat were dry-aged, we made sausages and other things. I think it’s a beautiful interaction and hunters understand nature very well.

The Soča Valley is very inspiring. It’s a wild environment, when the forest is lush and green it’s really incredible. If you live close to nature, if you walk through it, observe it, you get plenty of inspiration. Even observing things growing together sometimes gives you an idea of the harmony of flavours or ingredients in nature.

A waterfall in the mountains near Kobarid

Sometimes I say that running is my psychoanalyst. It’s a beautiful way to keep yourself motivated and focused, but it especially gives you the right quantity of happiness and adrenaline to continue your day in a bright way.

After winning The World’s Best Female Chef Award in 2017, I got a lot of media attention, and that also means a lot of pressure. In one year, I did more than 500 interviews and I travelled a lot. It was really important for me. But I come from the sort of environment where people stay simple and never get too posh. Whatever happens, you try to remain grounded. My private life and my personal happiness don’t depend on public appearances.

Slovenia is one of the most diverse countries in the world. You go from the Alpine mountains to a Mediterranean beach in 45 minutes. In the meantime, you pass the wine producing area, the pre-Alpine world, and the lowlands of the east.

With all this geographic diversity, the basic food also changes. We go from an Alpine diet, with lots of dairy and butter, pickled and fermented products, lamb, goat kid and game; to the beach, where you have a totally different Mediterranean diet with sardines, mussels, seabass and olive oil – they would never use butter. Then you go to the east and the lowlands are full of grains and pumpkins, and they would never use olive oil, they would always dress a salad with pumpkin oil.

Homemade vegetable broth

Slovenia is one of the five greenest countries in the world. We are so close to nature, everybody is foraging and having gardens, it’s a heaven for food.

I never cook upstairs because the whole house is our home. Even on a day off, we sit by the fireplace and I cook in the professional kitchen of Hiša Franko. It’s amazing because you have a lot of space, you have the silence, you can think, you can put some music on. Then the children come half an hour before eating and they help me set the table, someone makes the fire, and the place is so warm that I can’t call it a restaurant, it’s simply our home.

If you want to be a great chef, you need to use your heart. You need to put emotions into the food, otherwise it’s just food. Who wants to go to a restaurant just to eat food, especially if you expect something creative?

Go inside Hiša Franko to watch Roš prepare her hearty broth and beef tongue, and stay tuned for the next episode of the Home Cooking series, featuring Jorge Vallejo:

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