In the culinary world, there's another Slovenian woman who is fast gaining worldwide recognition, this time for being a gastronomic virtuoso in the kitchen. The seventh recipient of the World's Best Female Chef award is Ana Ros of Hisa Franko restaurant in Kobarid, Slovenia.
Ros's rise to the top as a chef of—and unexpected—gastronomy is all the more remarkable as she is completely self-taught, and her career in food accidental. After meeting her husband Valter, Ros—who is also a former ski champion—turned down an offer to work as a diplomat in Brussels, choosing instead to stay in Slovenia and help run his family's restaurant.
To master the craft, Ros travelled and dined at other restaurants where she decrypted recipes and sought inspiration to create her own signature, culinary philosophy—one that hinges on local products like homemade butter, Tolminc cheese, lamb, and the influences of neighboring Italy, Hungary, Austria and Croatia.
Through trial and error, Ros eventually developed her own gastronomic identity, one that recently caught the attention of the food world via the popular Netflix series "Chef's Table" in an episode that aired last year.
"One of the things that I've always been most fascinated about by Ana's cooking is that she has this particular genius with the unexpected," says "Chef's Table" narrator and food critic Alexander Lobrano. As an example, he describes one of her most intriguing dishes as a "broken haiku."
"When you read squid, sweetbreads, walnuts and Tolminc cheese, you can't imagine what these flavors are going to taste like when I put it in my mouth," Lobrano says. "But then you're in the midst of eating the said thing and suddenly you're surprised by how spectacular the food is."
Hisa Franko is located in Kobarid's Soca Valley, just three kilometers from the Italian border, an area best known for having been the site of the 1917 Battle of Caporetto documented in Ernest Hemingway's novel "A Farewell to Arms."
While Ros may never have become a high-ranking diplomat in Brussels, she is widely described as a culinary ambassador for her native Slovenia.
"The award came as a surprise to me," said Ros. "It is a big responsibility to accept this award, especially as a self-taught cook, but the recognition provides an opportunity for people to reassess Slovenia as an interesting gastronomic destination."
Past recipients of the award include Dominique Crenn, Helene Darroze, Helena Rizzo, Elena Arzak, Nadia Santini and Anne-Sophie Pic.
Ros will accept her award at the World's 50 Best Restaurants awards April 5 in Melbourne, Australia.