BBC – Journey – Ana Roš: The chef who put Slovenia on the map

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Relating to Slovenia, Ljubljana and Lake Bled often is the extent of most worldwide guests’ information. However issues are altering, with Slovenia quick changing into one in all Europe’s prime gastronomic locations. That is, not less than partially, thanks to 1 girl – Ana Roš, head chef at Hiša Franko, a household restaurant within the alpine surrounds of the Soča Valley and flanked by the Julian Alps.

50 Causes to Love the World – 2021

Why do you’re keen on the world?

“As a result of I received to go to the tiny stone villages of Slovenia’s magical Kras area, which I wouldn’t have thought-about going to if I hadn’t wanted to remain in my nation. I’m grateful that I had an opportunity to see the area’s lovely colors – oranges, violets and greens – and distinctive panorama, which feels form of Mediterranean however seems out to the Alps.” – Ana Roš, chef

Extra Causes to Love the World

In June 2020, Michelin introduced its first-ever stars given to a Slovenian restaurant, awarding Hiša Franko two stars. The restaurant can also be presently ranked quantity 38 on the World’s 50 Greatest Eating places listing, and Roš was featured in Netflix’s Chef’s Desk.

The modern, self-taught chef presides over a menu that takes its cues from the astonishing number of produce provided up by the Slovenian terroir – so numerous that in 2016 native ethnologists divided the nation into 23 distinct gastronomic areas. Such wealthy pure components and the ensuing delicacies, which mixes Italian, Balkan and alpine influences – in dishes akin to buckwheat beignet with bitter ricotta and porcini mushrooms, and cured sardine with figs and black lemon – has seen Slovenia named the European Area of Gastronomy for 2021.

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Ana Roš: her meals and story

Roš has not had a standard journey to chef stardom. Seemingly destined to develop into a diplomat or an expert skier (she spent 10 years on the Yugoslavian Nationwide Ski Crew and graduated in worldwide and diplomatic science from an Italian college), Roš as a substitute determined to work within the kitchen of her future husband Valter’s household restaurant, the place she started her culinary exploration.

I’m extra impressed by the territory, the great thing about nature, by the standard of the merchandise

“The type of cooking of Ana Roš is a form of a collage: an expression of the terroir, of the season and completely of my character, which is powerful,” stated the chef, reflecting on her personal observe. That includes inventive reimaginings of conventional dishes from the Soča Valley (which embrace the famend Soča trout and bovški krafi, candy dough pockets with pear), Roš’s modern menus are usually not, nevertheless, certain to any explicit custom or method. As an alternative, they take the chef’s environment as a launchpad, echoing the natural (and eclectic) nature of her path into cooking.

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“I’m well-known for being self-taught and I by no means studied at any restaurant or did any culinary faculty, so cooks weren’t my inspiration. I’m extra impressed by the territory, the great thing about nature, by the standard of the merchandise I’ve round,” she defined.

Roš describes her strategy to the kitchen as “technical, nearly scientific”, with “uncooked” being her favorite strategy to put together components, significantly greens. The results of such a rigorous and methodical strategy, which sees dishes undergo a 10-day experimentation and testing course of, although, is a eating expertise that feels removed from the dry, scientific surroundings of a testing lab.

“The aspect of shock is important for me – alternating textures (chilly/heat and delicate/arduous) or some style distinction (bitter/bitter or candy/salty),” stated Roš, who additionally notes the important thing function of herbs and spices, harvested from Hiša Franko’s personal backyard, in delighting and catching diners off guard.

Each nature and folks stand on the centre of the chef’s dedication to working with native components, which embrace wild herbs and flowers, honey and lamb from neighbouring mountains. “We observe the seasons, we respect the terroir by sourcing utterly regionally,” she defined, highlighting that “utilizing native components additionally means supporting native producers”.

Along with contributing to the native financial system and the restaurant’s sustainability credentials, Roš’s dedication to celebrating native components speaks to her function as a proponent of Slovenian gastronomy on the world stage. “I believe the one objective that I had throughout all these years of arduous work was to … create a vacationer and gourmand vacation spot – for [the local town of] Kobarid, the Soča Valley or Slovenia,” she stated.

Slovenian meals tradition: Various landscapes and transferring borders

Defining Slovenian delicacies isn’t any imply feat. In line with Roš, a (fairly literal) eschewing of mounted boundaries lends the nation’s gastronomy its key strengths. “So, what’s Slovenian delicacies?” she stated, “You don’t know as a result of within the north it may be utterly completely different meals than what we eat within the west or the south.” Describing Slovenian delicacies as one of many “windiest” she has ever encountered, referring to its evolution and adaptation amid shifting cultural and political tides, she goes on to unpack the various influences on the nation:

“I believe Slovenia may be very distinctive on the subject of meals traditions, as a result of it’s a very small nation – solely 21,000 sq km – and is bordered by international locations recognized for his or her robust meals cultures, with Italy within the west, Austria with the Viennese delicacies to the north, and the Balkans to the south, together with a small border with Hungary.”

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The area’s tumultuous historical past has been instrumental in shaping such an eclectic delicacies, Roš defined, as “the borders have at all times been transferring, 100km this manner and that method, and these [border regions] are sometimes the place minorities live,” engendering but additional variety. The chef notes the actual affect of latest historical past on her work: “Slovenia was one a part of a communist nation (Yugoslavia) the place creativity – together with in gastronomy – was not supported as a lot as within the West. We at the moment are constructing a New Slovenian delicacies.”

On the centre of this New Slovenian delicacies stands the beautiful array of produce on provide within the comparatively small nation, born of its wealthy biodiversity and contrasting landscapes. In the identical day, you could be mountaineering within the Alps, exploring lush forests, strolling apart from the Adriatic (the place you’ll find the Sečovlje Salt Pans) and taking the therapeutic waters of thermal springs. “I’ve a tremendous terroir in my palms,” Roš stated. “Slovenia is gorgeous and may produce some wonderful issues, from Tolminc cheese [a hard cow’s milk cheese] produced at an altitude of 2000m to Soča River marble trout.”

For guests travelling to Slovenia, Roš recommends (along with paying a go to to Hiša Franko, naturally) consuming in gostilnas, which she describes as “Slovenia’s model of the Italian osteria”. Right here, she explains, meals is conventional however generally with a “stunning twist”. Meals lovers seeking to deepen their understanding of Slovenian gastronomy would do effectively to hunt out the nation’s natural meals producers and winemakers: “I believe they’d be shocked what they may discover,” the chef stated.

The way forward for Hiša Franko: standing agency within the face of uncertainty

With the restaurant trade amongst these hit hardest by the lockdowns to have taken impact internationally towards the Covid-19 pandemic, Roš is keenly conscious of the challenges and persevering with uncertainty forward. “It is rather troublesome to attempt to predict what’s going to occur subsequent,” she stated. “The pandemic hit us and our sector very arduous, and absolutely it has modified our sense of security, and our sense of being safe in what we’re doing.”

The chef is decided, nevertheless, that her mission and method of working won’t be a sufferer of coronavirus. “I can not change the best way I’m, or the best way I work. It will be higher for me to search out one other job, quite than that. Hiša Franko won’t be altering, it’s going to stay precisely as it’s – an expression of the place we come from, and of the time.” Within the face of this era’s distinctive challenges, she believes “it’s essential to maintain on pondering and believing that folks will nonetheless need to socialise, to eat and drink and luxuriate in their lives.”

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Slightly than casualties of the pandemic, the chef sees eating places as a key a part of our restoration. “I believe that among the most essential restoration moments would be the social and the psychological ones, the place individuals will probably be grasping for good moments and longing to exit,” she stated, describing eating places as providing a “bubble” of leisure – one thing in brief provide on this planet proper now. “I consider that the function of leisure, which I think about eating places to be part of, is a crucial aspect in our restoration,” Roš continued, “as a result of we’re social beings and we want firm.” The chef describes our want for “good moments” as the bottom for her relative optimism.

Cooking Slovenian at house 

“It’s very troublesome for a Slovenian chef to counsel what individuals around the globe or in cities ought to prepare dinner,” stated Roš, when requested which Slovenian dishes novice cooks may have the ability to try at house. Making an attempt to make an “interpretation” of her meals “in a faraway place” is particularly difficult, she defined, due to the actual high quality of Slovenian components. “We reside so near nature that it’s troublesome to think about that you possibly can get, for instance, the fermented cottage cheese or native lamb, which has a selected native flavour.”

As an alternative, Roš suggests poring over the recipes of Slovenian cooks, and planning your subsequent journey: “I truthfully consider that whenever you learn chef’s recipes, there needs to be a dream, a want to go to a spot after which eat that meals over there.” Within the meantime, she recommends “pondering regionally”. “Begin shopping for issues which can be in season, use natural or biodynamic greens, eat quite a lot of uncooked greens, eat quite a lot of fruit, use spices,” she specified.

Much more essential to the chef, although, is one’s mindset in direction of meals: “Make comfortable meals. Don’t depend energy whenever you eat, however simply benefit from the meals. That is the perfect recipe I can provide.”

BBC Journey celebrates 50 Causes to Love the World in 2021, by means of the inspiration of well-known voices in addition to unsung heroes in native communities across the globe.

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