Chef's Table (2015–…): Season 2, Episode 5 - Ana Ros - full transcript

Amazing chef from Slovenia, creating miracle dishes in her restaurant Hisa Franko in Soca Valley. Ana Ros spent 16 years revolutionizing Slovenian authentic cuisine becoming part of an internationally renown chef milieu.

[Ana in Slovene]
Love is crucial.

If we don't have love,
it's difficult to work well.

And in the kitchen,
that is extremely important.

When one is loved,
she can create better.

There is more passion.

More beautiful thoughts.

Because of love we do nice things,

and because of love,

sometimes we create catastrophes.

[opening theme playing]

[birds chirping]

[Alexander Lobrano]
Slovenia is a very little-known country.

On a map,
most people don't know where it is.

There's no way around the fact,
it's a remote location.

What you get here is the thrill
of going somewhere completely unexpected

that you can't imagine.

And if you say you're going to Slovenia,

they'll say,
"Are you going to Hiša Franko?"

The first time
that I went to the restaurant,

it was like
going to visit your grandmother.

I mean, this feeling of being cared for

the minute that you step through the door.

[Anna Morelli] The dining experience
at Hiša Franko

is like you're coming into a home.

So you feel immediately very welcome.

You feel at ease.

There's a Wizard of Oz quality.

It's like going to visit the wizard
when you come to Hiša Franko.

Ana is at the very, very top

of people who are making food
in Europe in the 21st century.

Which is very unusual because there's
no gastronomic reputation in Slovenia,

like there is in France or Italy.

[Anna] There's no Michelin Guide
in Slovenia.

That makes it very, very difficult,
not only for her,

also for other Slovenian chefs.

She's never going to have a star,
even though she deserves it.

[Alexander] She is a really sophisticated
and passionate chef,

who has a really mischievous
culinary imagination.

Her genius in the kitchen

is that she knows exactly how to take
all these different Slovenian traditions,

and she tweaks them to make them modern.

[Anna] Ana's menu, it's original.

It opens up a whole new world.

You don't have her food
in any other place.

[Alexander] Ana did not come
from some fancy culinary school.

She's a self-taught cook.

She opened the door,
stepped into the kitchen,

and started to produce
this exquisite food.

And every time
I've ever eaten at Hiša Franko,

I find myself thinking,
"This is an astonishing performance."

[in Slovene]
Two peaches, right away.

[woman] Yes.

Don't let so much time pass in between.

You need to think in advance, Maja.

Look, Maja.
Did you add salt?

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.

She'll have these totally off-the-wall
combinations of things.

One of her most intriguing dishes

sounds like a broken haiku.

When you read,
"Squid, sweetbreads... [chuckles]

uh, walnuts and Tolmin cheese,"

you can't imagine what these flavors...

"What is all this stuff gonna taste like
when I put it in my mouth?"

But then, you're in the midst
of eating said thing,

and suddenly you are surprised
by how spectacular the food is.

The earthiness and the custardy flavor
of the sweetbread

is tempered
by the crunchiness of the squid.

Everything is accentuating.
One thing blends into another,

and you're almost at a loss
as to how to explain

[chuckles] how has this happened.

Where does that genius come from?

[Ana] I never went to cooking school,

and that's why I discovered
my own way of creating,

which is less restrictive.

Upon first sight, you think,
"Do I even like this?"

But when you put it in your mouth,

the world completely changes.

I'm proud of my audacity.

The only thing that I don't like
to hear from my guests

is that the dinner was boring.

That might be the biggest criticism
I could ever receive.

[Svit] Have you put the collar on Prince?

[Ana] Are we ready?
Okay, let's go.

Eva, why is your bag so heavy?
Svit, close the door.

Oh, these shoes of yours.

Hiša Franko is not just my kitchen.

It's also our home.

Hiša Franko is led by two people.

On one side there's me and my kitchen.

And on the other side is Valter

and his wine cellar.

Valter is also my husband.

This is a true partnership
24 hours a day.

[Valter] Ana and I have been together
more than 20 years.

I've known her cuisine
since the beginning.

We have been together for so many years
that none of her dishes surprise me.

[Ana] Hey.

I think we'll get drunk just like this.

And here's the mackerel.
Let's try it first.

[Valter] When we are tasting wines
to pair with new dishes...

I thought of three bottles

from my cellar that matched perfectly.

The flavor of food is enhanced
by the flavor of wine and vice versa.

They give each other energy.

[Anna] Ana and Valter,
they are totally cool people.

They are cool.
They are original.

And, uh, you know,
the big difference with another restaurant

where you have a chef and a sommelier?

It's that they are a couple.

He knows Ana's kitchen, Ana's cooking

as well as he knows Ana as his wife.

What he brings to the dining experience

is that the wines are perfect.

It's not a science.
It's not one plus one equals two.

It's just a fusion of the two of them.

And it makes
the dining experience fantastic.

[Ana] I'm a child of a rural doctor.

In the countryside,
doctors are important people.

My father and I were...
are very attached to each other.

When growing up,

your parents are your first true love.

We had a beautiful
father-daughter relationship.

My father strived for me
to get an education.

To be somebody.

[Bojan] She was a very good skier.

She was a member
of the youth national team of Yugoslavia.

She would come home late from practice,

and get up at 5:00 a.m.
and get ready for school.

That was how it was every day for her.

Even while balancing
sports and demanding activities,

she was an excellent student.

She studied international relations.

[Bojan] We were all expecting that she
would end up as a professional diplomat.

I was put under more and more pressure

from practice, competition
and high expectations.

But when somebody puts
all that on your plate,

it's really difficult.

It doesn't allow any creativity.

Look, mint.

[Ana] Knock, knock, knock.
[Valter] Hello!

[man] Hello.
[woman] Hello.

[man] You are finally here!
We are just making coffee.

Coffee! Coffee and milk.

Okay, I will drink some brandy instead.

The first thing you have to do
when you come to the mountains

is to take a shot of brandy.

Shots at 7:00 a.m.?
That is a good day.

[Valter] Mmm.


[woman] You need to drink all at once!

[man] Ana.

[all laughing]

[man in English] Oh, good!

[Ana in Slovene]
During my fourth year of college,

I was on break.

My mom forced me to join her for dinner.

We went to Hiša Franko.

[Valter] I was working there as a waiter.

They were sitting at the table,
and I could tell she was really bored.

So I invited her
for a glass of wine at the bar.

[Ana] We found each other interesting.

After that,
we started seeing each other and...

we fell in love.

Soon after that I moved in with him.

These things happen fast
when they are real.

[Valter] We traveled the world
and got to know new continents,

new flavors, new wines.

We were making our wishes come true.

And that made us very happy.

It lifted our spirits.

[Ana] This way of living had
a deep effect on me.

It changed me.

In a way, I grew up by his side.

I was discovering completely
new foreign countries.

And it seemed that

my path was to leave everything
from my childhood behind.

I realized that

living surrounded by rules

can feel very restrictive.

It's freedom that defines you.

[cow mooing]

Being aware of local tradition

is the basis on which a chef should
build their creations.

These are harsh living conditions.

The farmers work very hard to survive.

[in English] Beautiful room.

[man in Slovene]
They're arranged by date.

There's a date on top

-and then they go by age.
-[Ana] Uh-huh.

How long do you keep them here?

For four weeks.

[Ana] In this very modest region,
they didn't have refrigerators

or cold places for storing.

The cheese doesn't get
the opportunity to be aged.

The Tolmin cheese is one of the most
beautiful expressions of our environment.

This is why our decision

to age the cheese is so important.

[Valter] I'd never come across anyone
in the valley or in Slovenia

who was aging cheese.

So I started aging this cheese
in my cellar.

I nurtured it, turned it,
cleaned it, washed it.

I realized it was best after three years.

When you take a bite...

the flavor overwhelms your mouth.

[Ana] Three-year-old Tolmin cheese
is an exceptional cheese.

It can be compared...

to the best cheeses in the world.

And using a traditional ingredient

is a solid base
from which we can build on.

That is why there is stuffed pasta
on my menu.

It's stuffed with cheese
from the high part of Soča Valley.

Even though we're creating
something new...

Hiša Franko has an important role

in keeping this tradition alive.

[thunder rumbling]

Everything changed

when Valter's father decided to retire...

and leave Hiša Franko to Valter.

Valter could not run
the restaurant on his own.

At the time, [sighs]
she had a job offer in Brussels,

and we expected that she would take it.

[Ana] Having to make a decision

that will hurt your family

is one of the hardest things you can do.

I had to decide.

I stayed because of Valter
and our relationship.

My father started panicking.

"What will become of you?

Are you planning
on working in a restaurant?"

Then he stopped speaking to me.

That silence was extremely painful.

Well, this is the right temperature.
We should measure it now.

210°C, yes.

The rice is all lively.
Can you see?

When I opened the kitchen doors,

I didn't want to walk through them

and change my life.

It would have been natural
for Valter to be the chef.

He grew up in the restaurant.

But since Valter
was already a sommelier...

it had to be me.

The first years were extremely difficult.

I knew how to make pasta at home,

but that didn't mean I knew how to cook.

I had so many questions,
and I had to deal with them every day.

Why doesn't my bread rise?

Why are my ravioli opening?

Why is the meat dry?

If you go to culinary school,

all these questions are answered
in school.

I've always been a disciplined person
who needs to have everything organized.

All of a sudden,
I found myself in an abyss of ignorance.

And during that time,
both my children were born.

First Svit...

and then 16 months later, Eva Klara.

We lost most of Hiša Franko's
regular guests.

We were struggling to survive financially.

It wasn't easy, the life of a chef.

It was a story about survival.

[Valter] Ana wanted to make
something great of her life.

Since she hadn't done
anything in diplomacy,

she wanted to achieve something
in gastronomy.

She had to prove to her parents

and fight to show them
she had taken the right path.

She knew some traditional dishes...

but she didn't know high gastronomy.

So we went to the best restaurants around.

I wanted to inspire her,
so we could develop the restaurant

and make something beautiful out of it.

[Ana] Valter took me
to a great Italian restaurant.

I remember a dish
with polenta, rhubarb and liver.

It was so new to me, so different.

I felt like we were
going to a dream world,

like Alice in Wonderland.

What followed was a long,
five-year period of learning.

I spent a lot of time experimenting

because I was convinced
I had to learn everything.

I was testing my new dishes on the guests.

Unfortunately for them,
I made many mistakes.

That was when
the disciplined part of me came out.

I went to the library
looking for information

and read through
the few cookbooks that they had.

I was constantly questioning.

"Why? How?
Why does this reaction happen?"

Valter's chef friends
helped me learn cooking techniques.

I realized that there has to be
a contrast of textures,

a contrast of temperatures.

And then, in this trance,
my brain started looking for combinations.

That was a key moment.

I started believing in myself.

And I knew I was on my way.

Until independence,
we were a socialist/communist country.

Everything was the same.

There was no excess,
novelty, or expression.

And not only in art,
but also in gastronomy.

One evening,
a friend of ours came to dinner.

He was a food critic.

And after dinner he said,

"Ana, I ate very well.

You are progressing and growing."

But he also said,

"I think that you will create
something big

when you start looking around
at your own environment.

Why don't you try to create something

with trout, cheese,
or other local ingredients?"

When I heard that...

something inside me changed.

I started thinking.

There is an indigenous fish
that lives in the Soča River.

It's the marble trout.

In the first part of the 20th century,

due to pollution in the river

the fish almost became extinct.

But some very dedicated people...

found a healthy family of marble trout.

And with these trout...

they were able to save the species.

For this remote place where we live,

it's a beautiful story.

Marble trout need cold, clean water
with a lot of oxygen.

Like the people of the Soča Valley,
the trout have to fight to survive.

That was my story as well.

The dish that I created with it

is dedicated to that fish.

After that, I decided that,
with every plate I create...

I want my main ingredient to be one

that comes from this environment.

It began a new chapter for us.

I realized when I express the territory,

that my thoughts...

they can travel.

I was creating a philosophy
and starting a new Slovenian story.

[Anna] I used to have a magazine in Italy,

and I really wanted
to make a story on Ana.

In 2010,
I met her at some event in Milano.

She was cooking there that day.

And the meal was welcoming.

It was warm and it was very tasty.

You know, you really enjoyed it.

So I really wanted to do a story on Ana.

This editor, he said,
"Slovenia, what is that?

I mean, who is she and what is she doing?
What's the interest?"

So after that, what happened is
I kind of had to invent a whole story

to bring the people here
and, you know,

make them fall in love as well.

And they loved it.

[Ana] The article changed things.
It put us on the world map.

All these little things,
which really aren't so little...

help the gastronomies of small countries
like Slovenia

slowly position themselves
on the international stage.

At the time,

it was a very important story
for Slovenian gastronomy,

since it was still developing.

So every step was a big step for Slovenia.

Opening the doors for the whole nation
or for a group of chefs

is very difficult.

But this is what defines a big chef.

Slovenia's gastronomic
reputation is shining in Europe right now.

And I think it's just the beginning.

The British are coming,
the Dutch are coming...

The French are astonished
by how good the food is.

I mean, they just say, "Who knew?"

What she's done for her country
is absolutely spectacular.

-[indistinct chatter]

[Valter] I've chosen the Blažič cuvée
to go with your duck.

A mix of merlot and sauvignon.

[Alexander] From my point of view,
Ana didn't forsake anything

by deciding not to become a diplomat,
because she is a diplomat.

The difference is
that the world finds its way to her,

rather than her having
to go out into the world.

[Ana] How can I say this
so you can understand me correctly?

I never meant to hurt my parents...

but my need to be true to myself
and my sense of duty to my parents

were fighting a battle.

And I chose to follow my heart.

[Ana] Perseverance.

[Bojan] Perseverance.
You have to be persistent at what you do.

Because it's hard to believe
what you've been through.

And then deciding to drop out...

[Ana] Finally getting that affirmation
and being told "well done"

meant the world to me.


[Katja] Ana showed all of us
that this valley is too small for her.

She had to spread her wings,

and she did it in a very unusual way.

Now, we have our grandchildren close by,

and her success as a chef.

Which is an amazing, beautiful surprise.

We are very proud.

Proud of all she has
accomplished not only at home...

but internationally, as well.

Truly, with love
you can accomplish anything.