The daughter of a journalist and a doctor, Ana Ros, now 45 years old, got involved with cooking in a romantic way. In the year 2000, her boyfriend, now husband, Valter Kramar’s parents decided to retire from running their gostilna (think bistro, osteria, casual restaurant) in the tiny village of Kobarid and it was Ana who took over the kitchen. She had intended to become a diplomat, following her studies in international relations while representing her country as a talented skier with Slovenia’s national team. Instead, she dived into undiscovered waters, having previously never worked in restaurants at all. Hisa Franko of back then was a simple, traditional, good food place. Being curious and always discovering new boundaries, Ana, however, had different ideas, ones that were inspired by both her country’s natural resources, as well as her passion for travel. The people she learned cooking from were as diverse as the produce surrounding her, from her mother-in-law whose kitchen she grew up in to Ferran Adria at El Bulli where she worked.
Today, almost two decades later, Hisa Franko is a fine dining place; internationally recognized as one of the world’s most forward thinking restaurants. Ana – together with her husband, the Maître d’ and Sommelier Valter Kramar – is seen to be at the forefront of the new Slovenian cuisine. Located in Western Slovenia, just steps away from the Italian border and 30 kilometers from Austria, Hisa Franko overlooks the Triglav National Park where Ana regularly takes her children foraging for wild herbs and mushrooms. Located one hour from Trieste and one and a half hours from Venice here, as well as two and a half from the capital, Ljubljana. With the Alps on her back and the Mediterranean just across, Ana is well positioned to use the best of both worlds. Most of her ingredients are local while some are uniquely Slovenian – like the Soca River Marble Trout or Tolmin cheese which thanks to Ana are becoming renowned. The house is far away from big handlers, living instead on a tight community of local suppliers that Ana keeps supporting and developing. The locality and the expression of the season based on Slovenia’s biodiversity are therefore the first basis of Ana’s cuisine. The other one being – the country’s rich tradition. “I knew how to make pasta but that didn’t mean I knew how to cook. I taught everything they teach students in culinary school by talking to people who had the knowledge, by questioning myself and what I do. That’s how everything started!”
“There are young foragers, cheesemakers at 2000 m altitude, winemakers and river & sea fishermen that are my community. They produce things organically, as the nature is very much unspoiled and just pure beautiful. We don’t have any big industries around us but are surrounded by mountains in the North and the Adriatic-Mediterranean Sea in the South. I think this is one of the things that really inspire me and my cuisine.”
The idea of Ana’s cuisine is to bring the Slovenian tradition forward by using new techniques, as well as a pool of amassed knowledge from all around the world. In a 60 cover restaurant, she manages ideas with her sous-chef Vladka Cencic and a team of four to eight internationals.
Hisa Franko is not just a place where Ana works. It is also home to Valter and their two kids: Svit and Eva Klara.
Hisa Franko today is a continuing exploration of how the countryside restaurant should look like. Ana and her team continue to expand this vision, also redefining – primarily to herself – what being a chef actually means, social and cultural engagement being a crucial part of it.
Selected references: – The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Female Chef of the Year 2017 – Featured in Netflix Chef’s Table Season 2, 2016 – Guest chef at Ikaurs, Hangar 7, Austria, 2015 – Chef at Cook it Raw Poland event 2012 – Part of the Gelinaz! Shuffle project – Gault Millau: 17 points – Member of the Jeunes Restarateurs d’Europe Association – The Culinary Ambassador of Slovenia
“The food at Hiša Franko is everything but – boring. You can love it or hate it, but it will never be boring. I try to explore the edges and move boundaries by using local ingredients. With my dishes I try to express the season, the locality, my character, my journeys but also my feminity.”
“We live and work here 24 hours a day, together with guests that come and stay with us and eat in the restaurant. This means that there has to be a lot of heart and love in all we do. I think this is obvious in the whole experience of Hiša Franko. There is a special vibe to the place, a kind of a homey feel, very personal space. I am very attached to my family, i think guests can feel that.”