Interview: Ana Roš (Hiša Franko, Kobarid, Slovenia)
Night at the garden of Hiša Franko (Photo: Janez Pukšič)
Ana Roš is definitely one of the best Slovenian chefs. Her creative approach, vivid spirit, wonderful curiosity and world travels result in plates which talk stories – with roots in the local ground and head in the clouds.
What has brought you into the culinary world and how did you decide to become a chef?
There was never a DECISION to become a chef, but life+love were playing little games with me. I was a student of international and diplomatic science when I met Valter Kramar, my life partner, son of Franko Kramar, first owner of Hiša Franko. When I graduated I had to decide wether to take a challenge and continue my patner’s family business or make a diplomatic career. I decided to cook and this is how my long journey started and it looks a bit like never-ending story … I still have a lot to learn.
How would you describe the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is most typical about it?
I want to be local, regional and seasonal but at the same time global. I like little exotic touches, which make out of boring ingredients important partners. Local for me means communication with local community: cheese and butter production, lambs from meadows over 1000 meters, local beef, game, trouts…. Sharing my work with local community means that community accepts and rises to understand my work and also that my work helps them to survive. This financial part is important. My neighbour is cultivating Jerusalem artichokes: first he was feeding with this rich vegetable his porks. Then he noticed I was using it in my recipes and he started selling it to me. He increased the production and he is making some nice money out of it. But he is also starting to use Jerusalem artichokes in his recipes. It means he had enlarged his cultural and gastronomic horizon.
Dream garden. (Photo by Janez Pukšič)
Let’s go to your childhood. Are there any memories, tastes, flavours, which are important for your creations of today?
My mother and my grand mother were excellent cooks. My mom never had a lot of time since she worked as a journalist-reporter without fixed timetables and free time. But when she has found enough time we always had the best possible and very creative meal. She never followed cook books, but just her own instinct.
The funny thing is that she was never preparing desserts. When I had a lack of sugar I went ringing on our neighbour’s door who was excellent in pastry and baking. And voila the result: I am in big trouble with very »sugar addicted people« regarding my dessert list since my preference is for desserts which are not very sweet, almost not desserts: beetroot ice cream, rosemary and milk mousse, rice ice cream, american potato sweet cream …
Are there any ingredients that you are specially fond of and which you use more often?
I love using spices and herbs. I belive they make a difference.
Valter Kramar and Ana Roš. (Photo by Janez Pukšič)
Who were your tutors and mentors? Who has influenced you the most and how?
I was listening and observing every single chef I have worked with. Learning is first observing, memorizing. I learned a lot of things from books, also visiting most important gastronomic events and congresses, but I never did important stages: a mother of young children and a »working chef« in a team of 4 people cannot afford to be missed in the restaurant/at home more then a few days… I will always be sorry for this experience gap but at the same time it gives me the right to do things in my own way – young cooks making stage in my kitchen, often notice that I realise recipes »the other way around«. The result is sometimes a positive surprise.
Who’s inspiring you today?
The last positive experience which brought me to heaven was my november lunch at Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. The tastes were so intense that at one point I had a feeling of suffering of food allergy: my palate went crazy – it was literally burning! I am still under the influence of that 3 hours lasting meal/voyage.
Creativity and technique. What is more important for you and why?
Technique helps our creativity. It is the only combination which works.
What’s your favourite dish?
It is very funny… I cannot base my cuisine on sea food because of my conviction that a good chef is a chef who is following seasons and territory, traditions. Around me only mountains. But I excuse my escapade to the fish world self with our micro position: if I climb one of the mountains around Hiša Franko, I can see the sea so clearly that I could count ships in Trieste bay. Very honestly I prefer my fish creations….. they are light and funny. Here is the last one: Slightly smoked black cod, chicory and brussels sprouts , crispy algae salad in intense mussel soup.
What was your biggest success?
My biggest success: having local people on tasting menu in Hiša Franko.
Do you have any realizable or realized dreams?
In a few days I will be realising my long dream of spending 4 days in Hong Kong, eating, eating and eating. My whole life is made of dreams. That’s good: I always have a motive to continue.
Do you have also any unrealizable dream?
Hiša Franko is full of happy foodies 11 months per year. 1 month is for my family and our travels.
If you wouldn’t be a chef, what would you do?
I would be general manager of some huge prison (smile). I daily need adrenalin and action. It is about walking on the edge of impossible.