This is the first installment in a two-part interview with chef Ana Ros. You can find the second installment here.
In the heart of Europe lies the small country of Slovenia, with lush Alpine valleys dotted with ski resorts, vast green meadows, and sparklingly clean rivers and lakes, and it has recently emerged as a travel destination. Not widely known for its gastronomy, the former Communist country sharing borders with Italy, Hungary, Austria, and Croatia, with a piece of Adriatic coastline, has a cuisine influenced by neighboring cultures. The northeast region of Slovenia has been nicknamed "Tuscany" by its ambitious wine growers who are titillating wine enthusiasts all over the world with its unique wines. Slovenia's wine producing history goes back to the Celtic times, well before the Romans introduced and developed the wine practice in France so viniculture is definitely not new to the area. The biological diversity of this region which has been populated since prehistoric times is celebrated in its cuisine which has just begun to be recognized internationally especially since it joined the Eurozone in 2007.
Chef Ana Ros, the co-owner, with her husband, Valter, of his familial guest house Hiša Franko in Kobarid in the alpine Soca Valley that borders Italy is in part responsible for bringing international attention to Slovenia. Her participation in culinary events such as Cook it Raw, Identita Golose, Squisito, and Gelinaz — first in New York in 2014 at Eleven Madison where she joined the brigade of chefs who "surprised" chef Wylie Dufresne — has brought attention to the fledgling gastronomic scene of her country. In July of this year, she traveled away from her kitchen all across the globe to Rodolfo Guzman's Borago restaurant in Santiago, Chile during the famous chef swap orchestrated by Gelinaz founders Andrea Petrini and Fulvio Pierangelini. Ana joined other like-minded and well known chefs like Albert Adria and Massimo Bottura (amongst others) in this ambitious exercise. Her stoves in Slovenia were manned by Michelin-starred chef Mauro Colagreco of Mirazur, France while chef Guzman landed in chef Bertrand Grebault's Michelin-starred Septime kitchen in Paris, France.
Chef Ros, former ski champion on the Slovenian team, fluent in five languages, and schooled in diplomacy in Italy, was all set to join the diplomatic corps until a twist of fate landed her first in the dining room of her husband’s family hostelry and then its kitchen. Learning literally on the job and relying on the fabulous produce from the Hiso Franko gardens and local producers she has now joined ranks of other creative, new generation chefs of the region. This 40-something juggles her work with rearing two young children and concentrating on creating her version of traditional and some not so traditional dishes with a “kilometer zero" sensibility.
Growing up in an affluent household as a child of successful ski resort operators she travelled the world dining at well-known restaurants around the world and training her palate. Her love of raw foods, as well as her reputation as a risk taker when it comes to using contrasting textures and tastes, is visible in her menus and dishes along with some tongue in cheek humor. No stranger to celebrity she has a cooking show on TV as well as being a member of organizations such as Jeune Restaurateurs d'Europe. Ros has the distinction of having "rescued"artichokes, which were being fed to pigs in her area until she introduced them into her haute cuisine at Hisa Franko.
Catching up with Ros just after she returned from a triumphant exercise in the Borago kitchens we spoke to her about her travels, her Gelinaz challenge and her successful career as a chef in the electric green countryside of the Soca Valley of Slovenia. Piquing our interest was also her penchant for vacationing in remote parts of the world like the Cabo Verde island off the coast of Brazil, Madagascar, Vietnam, and Cambodia for the benefits of "unplugging" from routine.
We caught up with her as she was getting ready for her daughters 11th birthday party. Ros charmingly stated that with three kids, a dog, a house, and a husband, she was completely “normal” despite her celebrity chef status.
The Daily Meal: Why did you decide to take part in the Gelinaz! Shuffle?
Chef Ana Ros: I found the concept very interesting and I knew a lot of people participating, some from Cook it Raw, some from other cooking related events like the Gelinaz event in New York last year. This event provided an opportunity to learn about and experience another culture and its cuisine. Every Gelinaz event is so different and the recent one that moved chefs around the world and had them work in different kitchens was so interesting. Every chef involved was eager to participate in the adventure.