I spent the past four days in Franschhoek, and was able to meet with Chef Reuben Riffel for a coffee, to catch up on his new restaurant in Franschhoek, his new TV show ‘Recipe for Success‘, and the other activities in which he is involved.
We met at the Franschhoek Café, and we spoke about the new Reuben’s Franschhoek first. We have reported previously that Chef Reuben has bought his first restaurant building, just off the main road, as his lease had expired after twelve years, and a Woolworths and a Café (but not a W Café) are set to open in the former restaurant building in December. Chef Reuben was very open about the cost of renovation of the new building, and said that it would be a mistake to try and create another Reuben’s restaurant building, when they are trying to not continue with the past, and all he wants to do is to cook good food. They want to make the most of the character of the building, pushing the dining room on the front left further back, creating a kitchen shop in the front right with a reception, and a bar counter with a La Canche oven at the back of the room. A dedicated chef will cook small plate dishes from the oven inside the bar, interacting with their clients. Windows in the dining room will be opened up to capitalize on the beautiful views of the mountains. The dining room will be able to seat 60 patrons, and another 60 will be seated in an outside patio at the back of the property. The tree in the front of the building will stay, and seven parking bays will be created on the street front.
Chef Reuben removed all his kitchen equipment from the previous building, including his Josper oven, and told me that he has equipment in storage, such as a pasta-making machine, which he wants to start using again. The restaurant chairs are being upholstered, while his branded tables will be used in the restaurant. None of the artwork from the previous building will be used. The pop-up Reuben’s at his other Franschhoek restaurant Racine will operate until the new Reuben’s Franschhoek opens in March. Some of the previous staff was retrenched, some was employed at Racine, and some decided to be unemployed for a while. The plane wing on the bar counter in the previous building will not be used for the bar in the new building, and Chef Reuben will consider how and if he will reuse it. Chef Reuben’s wife Maryke will do the interior decor of the new restaurant building. The current flooring will be removed and replaced with wooden floors to give a natural feel. New artwork will be sourced, and plants added inside. Chef Reuben would like to honour influential Franschhoekers in his restaurant, planning to give his tables their names rather than table numbers.
Chef Reuben is planning to keep three signature dishes the same, and change the rest of them regularly.
We spoke about a building across the road from the new restaurant-to-be, which had been incorrectly used as a residential building. Its tenants have been accommodated elsewhere, and the use of the building is not yet certain. Given that Chef Reuben now owns his own building, and will not have to pay a punitive rent, he will be able to close during a part of winter, and to travel internationally, to seek inspiration. Chef Reuben is proud to be ‘building my own house‘, he said.
‘Recipe for Success’ TV programme
Chef Reuben has been an ambassador for Samsung for a number of years, and he has appeared in a number of cooking-related shows for the brand. The same producer has shot ‘Recipe for Success‘, a show which will feature business entrepreneurs (e.g. Shoprite’s Whitey Basson, and Riaan Stassen, who created Capitec and now owns Hidden Valley wine estate), who are interviewed by Chef Reuben as to what has made them successful. He also has selected ten chefs around the country, each one paired with a student from the Capsicum cookery school. The student cooks a dish in the studio kitchen, which the top chef has to critique. The idea is to create job opportunities for the young chef students, if the match works well. So, for example, Chef Gregory Czarnecki of Waterkloof has offered his student a trial opportunity in his kitchen.
The ten chefs participating in ‘Recipe for Success‘ are Neill Jewel from Bread & Wine, Greg Czarnecki from Waterkloof, James Gaag from La Colombe, Michael Broughton of Terroir, Peter Tempelhoff of Greenhouse, Michael Cooke from Camphors at Vergelegen, Virgil Khan from Indochine, George Jardine from Jordan Restaurant, and Pieter Vlok from Mont Marie. The series will be aired on The Home Channel on DStv this month.
Franschhoek Beer Co
At the same time as the new Reuben’s Franschhoek is set to open, the new Franschhoek Beer Co. should be ready to open, Chef Reuben being a partner in the business, and is the food partner in the new venture. He told me that they rented a plane in the USA, tasting beers, visiting breweries, and evaluating their marketing, to learn from them for their own venture. The Brewmaster Olaf Morgenroth traveled with the directors.
Quivertree has published a number of books by Chef Reuben, and they will publish ‘Reuben at Home‘, expecting to be launched early in December.
CNN culinary programme
Chef Reuben will host a South African focus of a programme ‘Culinary Travels with CNN‘, reflecting the diversity of South Africa’s cuisine, and its heritage. Locations for the programme include Bo-Kaap, the Karoo, and more. Renate Coetzee, a food historian and traditional food cultures expert, will also be involved. The programme will end with a braai. Filming will commence next week.
Michelle Obama’s chef Kass is organizing an international chef challenge to link to the Davos summit next year. The principle will be to exclude certain base ingredients such as rice and grains, and to find more sustainable food sources. Chef Reuben will involve some of the chefs appearing with him in ‘Recipe for Success‘.
In addition to all of the above, Chef Reuben has a number of charity events lined up. He assured me that he will not open any further restaurants. His motto now his ‘small is beautiful‘!