Die Verteidigung der Autodidaktik. Ana Roš.
Ana Roš, Hiša Franko, Kobarid, Slowenien. Eigentlich studierte Diplomatin, entschied sich zugunsten der Kontinuität eines Familienbetriebes für die Küche auf dem Lande, statt eigener internationalen Karriere nachzugehen. Karriere wurde daraus dennoch, mit Beharrlichkeit und Zielstrebigkeit höchst individuell aus dem Status der Quereinsteigerin heraus entwickelt. Notizen eines Zufalls-Gespräch an einem Nachmittag des Mai 2013: über das Brotbacken mit der Hand und die Verfügbarkeit lokaler Produkte, über die Küche als großer Lastwagen, die mission impossible des a la carte-Geschäfts und zu große Erwartungen.
It‘s a hidden place here.
It’s the place that makes you unique. If you live in the city it‘s so easy, city persons are so similar one to another. On the countryside you develop your own concept, whatever you do, even if you are a farmer. A strong personality, and growing up faster.
I spent one week with Magnus Nilsson, he is mature like I am, more ore less. I also live in the countryside but I am 12 years older! I couldn’t get the point, he is very focussed. So last year I started calculating: imagine Magnus Nilsson working in the kitchen when he was 16, 18 and me starting working in the kitchen at the age of 30 – it makes the same 10 years for both of us now; the kilometers are more or less the same. It all depends on the point of your own maturation: how much difference it makes when you are 28 or 40. Magnus is special.
There are quite tough chefs with great personality, they are always so safely, they have such a big knowledge which is not a classical one. A different approach, an own view. How comes that Austria has not such a personality? The developed environment creates only safe but no exceptional characters. And if there are, quite extreme, they don‘t find their place. There are some on the top, but their work is predictable. It‘s all kind of … not to identify, nothing very special. Fear of not having success? To be on the safe side is determined by tourism!
Own point of view
My point of view: I have my own way of expression because I never did school. Sometimes I did not even know how to do things, so I did them my way. And it became so clear that this way is so funny on one hand and sometimes also much better tasting with better textures! But when I have young people coming to my kitchen I can see they have troubles because what I do is so different from what they are used to deal with. They say „Ha! not with me!“
I have hand over everything but of course I need a person to follow that. My meringue for example is very very tasty, my pastry part is very much connected to the salty side. As my former pastry chef had left I got a young person to become the new one, very interested in bringing me also fresh ideas. My meringue recipe was wrong for him. How comes? I asked. Well, he used to work with a french chef doing meringue every day. But for me it was never the same good result as mine.
To express oneself
I need to express myself, and I think the difference is sometimes this different approach. It’s like our bread. Many restaurants forget about the concept of bread. Bread is what is in the middle of the table. It expresses the feeling of the house especially in countryside. Its one of the few things we share. There’s a focus to change!
It is easy to make a good white bread. But with other flours it is difficult. We use a mix of dough, we are still working on the bread since three years now. Actually we have a young boy on stage here. He has big hands and a lot of energy; it’s such a difference if made by machine or by hand! White flour works well with machine, but not the dark one. When it’s made by a big hand – A couple of hours, I say, dont‘ stop! – its’ really working!
In a big city restaurant they don’t have time enough for such things. Here in the countryside we develop our own way of kitchen. You are connected to the local products which are of course not all the time available. For example there is no lamb now. For two weeks I had the little mushrooms, the spugnole, les morelles, and now nobody can pick them any more.
We are flexible, but we don‘t decide every day. Cause the kitchen is a biiig truck, difficult to move. We need 24 hours preparation to get started. So when I come up with something new everybody is shocked – what now?
We recently started working only on menus even if up to november  we didn‘t have a big thing: 6 cold and 6 warm starters, 4 meat and 2 fish courses, 5 or 6 desserts and 2 menus, the long and the short one. It seems a lot but for Italians it is a very short menu! I have a big problem in Slovenia, I cannot afford a big team. We cannot stand with the price there, we cannot put the menu at 100 € to be able to pay the expenses for a big team in the kitchen. So its about 95% work in the evening on the menu, but we still have this 5% a la carte.
Imagine saturday evening full house and on 9 tables you have short and long tasting menus and on one table of 6 italians they go a la carte. And they want to try everything! 6 different cold starters, 6 different warm starters, so you must be like an octopus. It’s impossible! You still have 30 other orders waiting for you. Believe me, it‘s a mission impossible. And people don’t eat well, thats the problem.
I cannot express myself in a good way because I cannot cook three different meat and fish courses to perfection, maybe even one as a warm starter. Now we can go more on the quality in the details and we are much more relaxed in the kitchen. And we can change things more often. We have green peas? Let‘s go on green peas! We don‘t have the classical guest here. It‘s the traveling guest, he hast to travel to come here so he‘s quite content with whatever I offer. It was a good decision to switch to menu.
I think Slovenia is still considered as one of the non gourmet countries. We had two guests from New York, I think one was a journalist of the New York Times. They were so happy they almost cried when they left! They booked three months in advance, and they said they never would have expected this kind of food here. So really I can say that it is kind of a magic surprise. When you come here the expectations are low even when the reviews are good – because it’s Slovenian country. So there is this little element of surprise which is on our side! But how comes that people are so shocked with the quality in our food?
We are such a funny melting pot. We are on three borders, on the edge where the mediterranean meets the alps. It looks as if we‘re in the high mountains but we are so close to the sea! We are the first mountain range from the sea so the warm air from the sea comes to our valley and actually gets blocked by this mountain range we have in our back. This mountain stops the warm air, that’s why it rains a lot here.
People have a confused culinary tradition here between olive oil and butter, having the cows and also using the products form the italian lowlands because there has always been commerce. That’s why we have spices in our tradition – because of this commercializing with the Venetians! So it‘s such a melange here.
What is tradition?
If you just look at the tradition: the tradition was picking herbs for teas. It is nothing I discovered, we forgot and we rediscovered people who still pick the herbs. It’s not Noma – it’s always been here all this time! Look at our garden, Valter’s father always watched for the moon for planting. We didn’t loose this contact, it was there all the time!
I remember when we started we had this big commercial supplier that offered the best lamb from New Zealand. It really looked so important and it was important at that stage. But then I realized: we have thousands of lambs around us and nobody is cooking them? You need to mature for that. In a way I believe the lambs from New Zealand have a great taste but when you have a lamb from here … and it’s also about the trouts. For me it was really a process of getting mature, also personally getting adult: to understand things. But of course there are those who don’t like my way of thinking. I’m only worried when there are too many of them .... ;)
In the end you have to follow your philosophy. You need to make less! We always expect too muchelaboration – but you don‘t need a lot of things to make food very good. In the end you have to follow your philosophy. Sometimes you have this very potent chef whose cuisine looks very simple but actually there is a rich philosophy in the back. I watched the chefs at „Cook it Raw“* – all their dishes were very simple in the way they had taste! Yet I can understand that sometimes people need some more commercial taste.
But well, I am a complexe personality ....
*2012 war Ana Roš bei der Cook it Raw in Polen eingeladen – als einzige Frau. Eine Sache des Zu-Falls, wie wie erzählte:
By a funny chance I became part of the „Cook it Raw“: Once I was doing my cooking demonstration at a wonderful little Italian food festival, also Atala was part of it. Andrea Petrini was listening to my very simple cooking of eldertree flowers with egg pasta and asked why it was so tasteful. My answer: because I didn‘t work too much on it! Petrini: Why are we missing this kind of taste in the haute gastronomy? Me: Because we expect too much! You always expect too much elaboration!
Too big expectations
I didn‘t even know who Mr. Petrini was … Although he never really had tasted my kitchen he first invited me to a performance in New York and then asked me if I wanted to be the first woman to join „Cook it Raw“! I said: Maybe you should first come here to see what I’m generally doing? Yet he was so sure that I could work there with boys and guys, well and this is how it went.
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