Friendship at first sight
It was a moody August Saturday morning while we drove with Janja along the curvy roads towards Kobarid, to the renowned Hiša Franko, where Ana Roš writes her culinary fairy-tale. The self-taught chef, who gave up her diplomatic career for the sake of love and turned Hiša Franko into one of world's best restaurants, has managed to achieve that Kobarid has become a recognisable destination among the foodies although this is a rather remote area of Slovenia. Her place is usually booked months in advance and guests are eager to take photos with her, as if she was a movie star.
Janja Garnbret, the ambassador of Slovenian tourism and the greatest female sports climber of all times, once revealed that she loves good food (sushi is her favourite), and since Ana Roš is passionate about sports as well (she trained skiing when young and she was also a member of the Slovenian national team), the idea of introducing these two incredible women just came naturally. What we did not know back then was that these two ladies have so many things in common and that the time planned for the visit would be way too short.
"It’s all about the perseverance"
The energies connected the very moment they sat down for a coffee at Hiša Franko’s backyard with majestic mountain peaks as a backdrop. “As a child, I would climb to every tree and closet and this is why my parents took me to the local climbing club, where they said that I was really talented… the rest is history,” explains Janja about how she got involved with climbing. “I don’t think that it’s the talent that makes you the greatest. It is more about the perseverance. I’m lucky to have both,” she adds.
Ana could not agree more; being a self-taught chef in mostly men’s world of gastronomy, she definitely knows, how important it is to keep going, if you want to succeed, and how important it is to stay true to yourself. “In Hiša Franko, the local story is what we focus on,” continues Ana. “All of our products are locally and sustainably sourced. It’s the season and the availability of the produce that defines our menu and not vice versa... This year, for example, due to extreme drought, there are no mushrooms in the area. And this is why we don’t have them on the menu. We don’t change the menu weekly, we even do it daily, if the ingredients become unavailable.”
"If they cheer for me, I need to give them something back”
Janja Garnbret wanted to experience the atmosphere in the professional kitchen and Ana was glad to show her that. It was around noon and the first guests for lunch started arriving. “I want Janja to experience the real beat in our kitchen. I want her to see that it’s the team spirit that makes our story big,” said Ana, while accompanying Janja into the kitchen. Janja would like to help plating dishes.
When Janja entered the room, Ana’s team was visibly impressed. Many even wanted to take photos with her. This didn’t seem to bother her. In fact, upon being asked, how she feels about so much attention being given to her, she only smiled in reply: “I don’t have any problems with that. If they cheer for me, I need to give them something back”. The idea of “giving back” is close to both of the ladies. Also Ana is involved into many projects that “give back”, in her case, mostly to the local providers in the area.
"I like you very much, but you wouldn’t get the job!"
"I like you, but I wouldn’t give you a job," Ana jokingly says to Janja, as Janja tries to plate a dish as she has been shown. They both laugh heartily at this, and Janja admits that one needs quite a bit of practice just for placing dishes on a plate creatively. "How do you come up with such beautiful plates and dishes," she asks Ana. "I just visualise them," says Ana, and Jana exclaims, "Well yes, I also visualise at least three possible routes to the finish when I climb."
These two incredible women have more in common than one might have thought. But what makes them the greatest, is their amazing and contagious energy. They both had their ups and downs, but the most important thing is that they always stood up and continued fighting. Though passion is the thing that makes them go further and better, it is definitely not the thing that would stop them while catching their dreams.
And this is exactly the thing that another major name of Slovenian sport, one of the world's best goalkeepers, Jan Oblak once said about Slovenian mentality in the interview for the Guardian: “The Slovenian mentality is good, especially because normally our mind is “cold”. Is then the combination of a cold mind and warm-heart the secret behind the success of Slovenians? Most probably so.
“Give me a call, wherever you want or need advice – also, if it’s only about how long you should cook spaghetti,” said Ana before hugging Janja to say goodbye. We left with a pleasant feeling that this meeting was probably the beginning of a great friendship.