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Home » National » Of Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell to Arms’, bear meat and Michelin 3-star chef Ana Ros

Of Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell to Arms’, bear meat and Michelin 3-star chef Ana Ros


New Delhi, Feb 17

At the turn of this millennium, Ana Ros had to choose between a career in her country’s diplomatic service or to co-manage a restaurant and inn that her boyfriend inherited from his parents who had just retired.

Days before she was to fly to Brussels to take up her first foreign assignment, Ana chose to stay back, much to the horror of her parents, and run the countryside restaurant. Hisa (pronounced Hi-sha) Franko nestled in the pristine Soca valley in Slovenia’s far west.

Apart from being popular in the area, Hisa Franko came with an inn that had doubled as a hospice post World War I, where, it is said, Ernest Hemingway spent time recovering from wounds he had suffered in Italy during the war and wrote his iconic novel, ‘A Farewell to Arms’.

Her parents — her father was a physician and her mother a well-known journalist — still did not consider it a reason for Ana, who had studied international relations at the University of Trieste and was before that a champion Alpine skier and member of the Yugoslav national youth team, to give up what was possibly a more glamorous career.

Today, fame and glamour chase the Michelin three-star chef fluent in five languages, who was voted the world’s best in 2017, and a proud mother of two adult children.

Ana is now also a globe-trotting culinary diplomat, a self-taught ‘Green Chef’ with her own brand of ‘hyper-local’ cuisine (she says “nature around me is my supermarket”), and the unofficial ambassador of her country of 2.1 million people.

It was this role that brought Ana to the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi, where Prateek Sadhu, a talented young chef famous for his passion for foraging for ingredients, got her talking about her life journey and how women can juggle the competing demands of motherhood and a busy career.

Slovenia, incidentally, was born out of the wreckage of communist Yugoslavia and is so small that, to quote Ana, it takes two hours to travel across it from the north to the south, and three and half, from the east to the west.

The scale of Ana’s achievement is apparent from the stark reality that whereas 125 male chefs are recipients of the rare Michelin three stars, just five women are a part of this elite club. There’s an unmissable glass ceiling in a profession still dominated by men.

Ana’s conversation with Sadhu, who was much-celebrated during his stint with the Mumbai restaurant Masque and has recently opened Naar in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, began on the subject of bears. The wild kind and not the stock market variety.

Sadhu and Ana were exchanging recipes online during the Covid-19 lockdown when he was struck by the mention of bear claws.

Ana explained that thanks to the ethnic strife that wracked neighbouring Croatia in the 1990s, a large number of bears sought refuge in the calmer climes of Slovenia and never went back.

It was all right till their numbers started growing and they became a menace to livestock. To deal with the menace of bears posing a threat to lives of domesticated animals, Slovenia passed laws allowing a set number of them to be slaughtered every year.

That was when bear meat became a delicacy in Slovenia, though Ana’s menu is best known for handmade pastas, which Mayur Sharma of Highway On My Plate fame praised profusely during the conversation, and home-cured Tolminc cheese, apart from white asparagus with smoked egg dip and walnut to two-day-aged trout cooked on the barbecue and served with brown butter fish sauce and horseradish.

Ana is also famous, as highlighted by the World’s 50 Best, for her take on the New Orleans corn beignet served with fermented cottage cheese as well as potato cooked in a summary hay crust.

Despite her enviable fame earned from “a countryside restaurant with a resident dog and cat’, Ana says that she keeps thinking about new ways to cook and present food “even when I am sleeping”, and her advice to younger members of her profession is to stop chasing awards and accolades, and instead to keep working for the satisfaction of their guests.

Ana’s parting advice: “Hospitality is all about taking good care of your guests. Awards will come if they are cared for.” Words of wisdom that young chefs who spend more time on Instagram and Facebook would do well to pay heed to.

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