The Best Chef Pristine Award
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When Ana Roš was a girl in a small town called Nova Gorica in the former Yugoslavia, she never dreamed she would one day become one of the world’s most famous chefs. Her mother recalled that she couldn’t even fry an egg. It was skiing rather than a skillet that was uppermost in the young Roš’s mind, and at the age of 7 she had already joined the national skiing team, where she remained for another 10 years. Little did she know that she would one day be crowned the world’s best female chef.
Her restaurant, Hiša Franko, in Kobarid, Slovenia, has become a major food destination in a country where the Michelin Guide has yet to tread. Set in the foothills of the lush Soča Valley, it aims to reflect the natural environment of the region, from the dramatic mountains to the emerald River Soca, down to the Adriatic Sea. Though Roš’s approach is highly technical, the emphasis is always on allowing the essence of local ingredients to shine through. For Roš, the beauty of rawness is paramount, and the element of surprise is a key facet of her cooking – contrasting temperatures, textures and flavours are a frequent motif.
She does not believe in signature dishes, since few dishes linger on her menu for long. Hiša Franko is a restaurant in perpetual forward motion, though some principles remain. All her ingredients are sourced from local foragers, producers and artisans that go back generations. It is this sense of immediacy that informs her cooking, and which keeps everything at Hiša Franko vitally fresh.
As a young woman, Roš trained to be a diplomat. She only became involved in food because the man she married, Valter Kramar, was the owner of Hiša Franko. She began helping out in the kitchen, and soon after that she was hooked. Her cooking gradually won notoriety, and in 2011 the restaurant was featured in a documentary on the French-German TV channel Arte. In 2012 Roš became the first female chef to join up with René Redzepi, Alex Atala and Daniel Patterson for the Cook It Raw event. And in 2016, Hiša Frako was featured on the Netflix series Chef’s Table, which brought Roš to the attention of the American market. Suddenly everything changed.
She herself defined her cooking: “Today my approach to cooking is technical, almost scientific, but still allows the ingredients to develop or preserve the (strong) original taste”.
In Milan she joined forces with Massimo Bottura at the Reffetorio Ambrosiano soup kitchen as part of his Food For Soul initiative. And in India she has cooked with the Creative Services Support Group, which supports and promotes education and employment for disadvantaged girls and young women. She remains an inspiration for female chefs everywhere.