Find out how one of SA’s leading chef’s Reuben Riffel enjoys the freedom that living in Franschhoek gives him.

For Reuben Riffel life began in the town of Groendal in the picturesque Franschhoek Valley. It was also the place where his palate for good food developed as his mother would occasionally bring home meals from the restaurants where she worked. 

The Restaurateur and Media Personality shares that he’s now been in the industry for close on 25 years, “The cool thing about still living in Franschhoek is that I drive down this road sometimes towards the village where I was born and I grew up and I think about how I used to walk up to work thinking about where I want to be, and what I wanted to do. It does sometimes remind me yes, of where I’ve come from, but it also feels like the time just flew by so quickly. I mean, here I am today, I’ve written four recipe books, done close to 12 TV shows, I’ve opened a few restaurants, closed them along the way, and gained a lot of experience.”

The chef, despite no formal training, has honed his skills through the many incredible mentors he has worked with and now includes Reuben’s in Franschhoek and Reuben’s and Co Café at Val de Vie Estate as two of his many accomplishments. 

As can be expected, this keeps him very busy so we delved a little deeper into how he finds time to recharge.  

“The restaurant business keeps me busy, but it does afford me to now and again take a day off and I really cherish that so I try and do the things that I really love. People obviously know about my passion for cooking and food, but I think what many don’t know is that I also have a massive passion for cars – all sorts of cars.”

Reuben shares that his love for cars started at a very young age. He relays that while his dad never had a car, they had an old broken down vehicle on their lawn and he fondly recalls being the driver and imagining where he would be going. 

“When I had the opportunity to buy my first car, I realised what a sense of freedom having a car gives you. I then got into different cars – older cars, fast cars, off-roading. I think I love everything about it, from the smell of a car to the sensation that driving gives you and even getting my car ready or giving it a wash and getting into it to take it for a drive,” he shares.  

We took a journey with Reuben in his prized “old lady” to Villiersdorp for a round of 9 holes at his favourite Golf Course. It’s another activity he’s very passionate about and it was his off day after all. 

“I love golf! I think it’s something that really started when I went over to the UK. I was based around Cambridge where there’s some really beautiful golf courses and that’s where I first started playing.” 

He adds that “Golf is one of those games that once you get into it, it just draws you in more and more as you want to get better at it.” 

“For me, this is what it’s all about. Beautiful food, taking a nice scenic drive in an old beautiful car, and just enjoying the scenery and nature out here, while playing one of my favourite games golf.”

The ability to steer one’s life sure does provide a sense of freedom that inspires creativity. May Chef Reuben Riffel, a national treasure and one of Franschhoek’s favourite sons, continues to thrive and enjoy that freedom.