Q: Reuben’s at One & Only in Cape Town. Wow, that is quite something. How did this come about?
A: I was offered the restaurant after Gordon Ramsey left. The hotel management decided to add a local flavour to the hotel offering.
Q: You are the owner of 3 top restaurants. How do you manage to juggle your time between your restaurants?
A: We have a good system in place and I rely mostly on my head chefs and front of house managers to maintain standards. I roster myself to work with each team through a month and sort problems or to work on new dishes. Its not easy but I never expected it to be.
Q: Did you always want to be a chef or did it happen by default?
A: It happened by default. I had no real interest in the industry. The passion of the people I started to work with rubbed off on me and I decided to give it a go.
Q: You are known as the gentleman of the cheffing industry. Is this so?
A: I’ve heard that before. I can be tough and demanding but I don’t believe in shouting and screaming.
Q: Do you have a signature dish?
A: Yes the chilli salted squid with mint
Q: How would you define the type of cuisine you serve at Reuben at One&Only?
A: It’s more rustic in style, but the focus is on freshness. The menu is seasonal and all produce is sourced locally.
Q: If you had to choose any dish off the menu at Reuben’s what would it be?
A: I love lamb so our lemongrass marinated grilled lamb is one of my favourites
Q: As an award winning chef tell me about the awards you received?
A: Reuben’s was voted one of Eat Out Johnnie Walker’s Top 10 restaurants in 2005 and 2006; and in 2007 I won the invitation-only Unilever Chef of the Year title. In 2008 I published Reuben Cooks – Food is Time Travel and it was awarded Best Chef’s Book in South Africa 2009 at the hotly contested international Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Spain.
Q: When you see your name on the outside of your restaurant , did you ever in your wildest dreams think you’d see that one day?
A: No definitely not. I was actually not even in favour of calling my restaurant Reuben’s and now seeing it like this it’s like it has taken on a life of its own.
Q: Cheffing is definitely not for the faint hearted. What advice do you have for other aspirant chefs?
A: Don’t rush it, take your time when working under good chefs, study them and learn from them. Make sure you have a good grasp of the basics of cooking, good people skills is important and always be aware that hard work takes on a new meaning in our industry.
An aspiring chef”s mom sent us this:
My son, Jonathan, who is a trainee chef with the Protea group is very impressed with the advice Reuben gives in the final question and has asked me to print it in large font so he can paste it against his bedroom wall. He is passionate about being a chef and took top academic awards during block at HTA last year.
Hopefully Jonathan will have the privilege of meeting Reuben one day…”‘