Tasting Success: Slovenian Rhapsody
Tasting Success: Slovenian Rhapsody
A contemporary dancer and former champion of the national ski team, the young RoŠ was fluent in ve languages, and all set for a diplomatic career when she met the charismatic, wine-loving Valter Kramar on the slopes.
The couple inherited Kramer’s family business, a traditional Slovenian restaurant called Hiša Franko in 2000. And despite having no culinary background, RoŠ decided to make the best of it. She didn’t enrol in courses or cordon bleu schools, but instead taught herself how to cook by travelling and eating at other restaurants.
There was a lot of trial and error at rst – the bread didn’t rise and the ravioli split, despite RoŠ spending 18 hours a day practising her new art. A lot of regulars stopped coming to the restaurant. But RoŠ persisted.
“It’s still surprising sometimes,” she says. “I wake up wondering if I’m doing the right things. But you know, if you nd the right motivation, you can do anything. Whatever I do in my life I do it with passion. In the kitchen it’s a lot to do with understanding taste and having the sensibility to match things. Technical skills can be learnt, even at a later stage. Having the motivation and discipline to arrive at a goal is essential.”
FROM THE FIELDS
Located in the tiny Slovenian town of Kobarid in the Soča Valley, just minutes from the Italian border, Hiša Franko is not only RoŠ’ workplace but also her home. She lives with her family, including two children and dog Prince, in an apartment above the restaurant.
RoŠ simply cooks with what is around her: wild mushrooms, alpine trout, dandelion owers, nettles, garlic sprouts, meadow lambs and forest honey. She dubs it a “zero kilometre” philosophy.
“It’s spring in Slovenia at the moment,” she says. “So there’s a lot of foraging happening now. Everything is sprouting, green and in ower. This is how the food is inspired.”
This means the menu changes regularly, and might include hops ravioli with goat kid brain, drops of black beans and anchovies. It’s personal, heartfelt cuisine embedded in the season and the terroir.
“Of course cooking this way is a challenge because you have to be a lot more elastic and open to different things,” says RoŠ. “If you use produce directly from your doorstep and from nature, you have to be ready for changes. One day you might wake up and something just won’t be there any more.”
The only recurring elements in RoŠ’ menu are the homemade butter and sourdough bread, borrowed from a 300-year-old recipe. Villagers living in the mountains once used apples from nearby orchards to start the fermented culture used to make bread, resulting in a unique avour.
Growing up in a remote corner of Slovenia, Ana RoŠ never dreamed she would spend most of her life in a kitchen – let alone be featured in an episode of Net ix’s Chef’s Table, or earn the title of the World’s Best Female Chef in the 2017 World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards.
RoŠ’ partner Kramar runs the restaurant’s wine cellar, which favours natural and biodynamic Slovenian wines, and cheese cellar, in which he ages local, handmade cheeses. “We try mostly organic and biodynamic wines – it’s not a trend, it’s a tradition for Slovenian winemakers,” says RoŠ. “People have always been drinking natural wines. The main idea at Hiša Franko is to keep tradition alive,” she says.
RoŠ is also a firm believer in teaching others to keep tradition alive. Once a year, she opens her kitchen to students at the local primary school. “The kids come in for a day of breadmaking, from feeding the sourdough to baking the bread. Kids tell me they want to be cooks a er they have this class. It’s a lovely reaction. When you show things with passion, you get that kind of feedback.”
RoŠ has also spent time in the kitchen with recovering drug addicts, teaching them about making the most of wild plants when preparing various dishes. “From a young age I understood how important it is to share: if you can a ord to share something with others, you should. When I was 16, I taught dance to young disabled children, pro bono. And I ew to India to do a project with underprivileged girls. Opening your doors to people who are not able to get an education, but still have a dream – this is the biggest blessing you can do for your community.”