Slovenians are humble. Through years of conforming as an oppressed country to ruling neighbors, it has become a trait that has crept in. Their modest attitude also prevails when it comes to wine and the fine dining scene, even though the country is brimming with culinary traditions and more and more chefs are committed to sustainable gastronomy. 

Slovenia is not as well known as Denmark when it comes to sustainable gastronomy - unrightfully so. In fact, many of the high-end restaurants adhere to the farm-to-fork principle, focusing on local products and working very closely with small-scale farmers and game pickers. 

Perhaps the most famous example is Ana Roš with her restaurant Hisa Franko*** in the Soca Valley, a remote mountain area named after the river that runs through it. Roš is now known for using world-class techniques to let hyper local ingredients flourish on her plates. She calls her style the "zero kilometer philosophy”. All the ingredients the chef uses come from the fields, rivers and gardens surrounding the restaurant. Examples are trout from the Soca River, porcini from the nearby forest and cheeses from local makers. You won't find any signature dishes on her menu; everything is seasonal.

As of 2023, Hisa Franko carries three Michelin stars and Ana Roš is part of an illustrious group of female chefs. Only 8 women in the world have three Michelin stars to their name in 2024. Roš' three stars and her appearance in the Netflix series Chef's Table, have helped Slovenia gain international fame around gastronomy. 

Sustainable is status quo

Together with her business partner and chef Uroš Štefelin, Marcela Klofutar has been running restaurant Hiša Linhart in Radovljica since 2013. Working with local farmers, Štefelin breathes new life into forgotten traditional dishes, such as Carniolan sausage, tepka pear juice and tepka pear pralines. At their restaurant the two also run a cooking school where they educate children, home cooks and professional chefs. The restaurant received a red star and a green star from Michelin in 2021. 

Klofutar: "We as Slovenians are often too modest about our achievements. Part of the reason is the fact that our sustainable way of doing things, feels so obvious to us. Slovenia has been a poor country for many years, with small-scale agriculture being an important part of our food system. Until recently, many people depended on their own gardens, and foraging. The knowledge of growing your own food was lost with us." 

European Region of Gastronomy

In 2021, Slovenia became the first country to be declared a European Region of Gastronomy, at the same time the country launched a large-scale campaign to make Slovenia a "green destination" calling on the hospitality industry to unite with each other around this theme. 

New generation of chefs

Young generations of Slovenian chefs also find it important to preserve traditions around food culture. This is why the young Leon Pintarič stepped into his family-run restaurant Rajh as a chef, a few years ago. Pintarič is the fourth generation in his family to work at the restaurant, which serves traditional Slovenian dishes with a sophisticated twist. "My grandparents, as restaurateurs, wanted to innovate and use import products like lobster and caviar. When my parents took over the restaurant, they actually reverted to the tradition of the generations before their parents. They switched back to using only Slovenian products in the kitchen. I want to maintain that tradition, but in an innovative way."

Monstera Estate Restaurant

Bine and Katarina Volčič also show that Slovenia is a country where gastronomy and sustainability go hand in hand. The two met in Paris, where Bine trained at Cordon Bleu, while Katarina studied French at Sorbonne. After both spent several years working in top Parisian restaurants - he in the kitchen, she at the front - they opened a bistro in Ljubljana in 2016. 

Monstera Estate

After a few years, the Volčič couple felt that their creativity was being stifled by the pressures of the city and standard catering hours. So the couple decided to move to the countryside in Goričko, in northeastern Slovenia, and the idea was born for Monstera Estate, a homestead and restaurant. There is room for only 12 guests, who can book only on weekends. Katarina calls their offering a "retreat," where unfamiliar couples get to know each other at their long kitchen table. On Friday nights, Bine serves a casual "family style dinner," and on Saturdays it's all about fine dining. 

Local products

For his menu, both in the evening and throughout the day, Bine works with local producers. For example, a whole sheep is regularly brought in to be processed in the stone oven. But perhaps most special is the collaboration with biologist and herbalist Lovro, who with his wife and three children has started a food forest on an abandoned estate with a farm a few kilometers away, where they also live. Lovro supplies special plants and herbs to Volčič, which he in turn incorporates into his menu. 

Despite their status as an exclusive boutique retreat, the Volčič's try to be as involved as possible in the local environment, staying close to their Slovenian roots where contact with nature is central in kitchens, both high-level and ordinary households.