Star chef: Ana Ros puts Slovenia on the map

The self-trained, 'accidental' chef has been named World's Best Female Chef 2017. Ana tells us what this coveted award means to her, and why Slovenian food should be firmly on every foodie's travel wish list

By National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Published 31 Jan 2017, 12:00 GMT, Updated 28 Jul 2021, 10:59 BST
Ana Ros.

Ana Ros.

Photograph by Ana Ros from her personal archive

World's Best Female Chef 2017

This awards means a lot to me. I am self-taught and come from a small country that not many people know of, less still that it has such a long culinary tradition. To get to where I am now took a lot of personal and business sacrifice. So acknowledgements like this prove I'm on the right path, and they keep pushing me, my family, and the community around us, forward. But it did come as a big surprise. I was pretty silent for the first week. I find it a huge responsibility. 

Do I think this award will put Slovenian food more on the world stage? Hopefully. Slovenia is an amazing country, very green and quite unspoiled. We have lush Alpine valleys, vast green meadows and sparklingly clean rivers and lakes and a piece of Adriatic coastline, too. The biological diversity of the country is amazing — and so is the gastronomy. 

Our boarders with Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia create interesting influences but there is uniqueness to Slovenian gastronomy, no doubt. I would suggest everyone to eat in a gostilna, Slovenia's version of an Italian osteria, where food can be traditional, but sometimes with a surprising twist. Also, visit Slovenia's numerous organic food producers and winemakers. I think you will be surprised with what you might find.

Fuel up
In winter we eat a lot of root vegetables and 'ferments' like sauerkrauts. But Slovenia has very diverse produce influenced by bordering Italy and Austria. With 24 gastronomic regions and 178 distinct and recognisable dishes, the idea of 'traditional' food has great scope here. Polenta with melted cottage cheese and bacon, game, potato gnocchi and vegetable soups dominate winter — it's great ski fare.

The beauty of Slovenia is that everything is so close. Late in the season you can ski in the morning and be on the beach in the afternoon. All the wine regions are on the doorstep, too.

Capital cuisine
In Slovenia's capital, Ljubljana, don't miss JB, listed in the world's 100 best restaurants and headed by chef Janez Bratovz who devises dishes with produce drawn from local farmer's markets. Sitting above the city in Ljubljana's distinctive 15th-century castle, our sister restaurnt, Gostilna na Gradu is led by legendary Slovenian chef, Svetozar Raspopovic. The menu here is a 'cross-country walk' with such standout dishes as thin slices of pork tenderloin stuffed with cheese and spinach fried in almonds.

I'd also highly recommend Strelec, a new place in Ljubljana castle, with an innovative local chef and French-inspired food.

Near the city
Krvavec is Slovenia's second largest ski resort, just outside the capital. Nearby, Skarucna serves organic wines, hearty portions and meats — wild boar, T-bone, ox — roasted on a huge open fire. Also try Gostilna Kristof and the super-inventive Brdo pri Kranju in Brdo Castle.

Soca Valley
This is home to Slovenia's highest ski resort, Kanin, and my restaurant, Hisa Franko. In the local town, warm up with game dumplings or sheep parmesan ravioli at Topli Val. The beautiful Dobra Vila boutique hotel in Bovec is led by our former chef and pastry chef.

Published in the The Alps Winter 2016 guide, distributed with the November 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)


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