Reuben Riffel, a prominent South African celebrity chef, restaurateur, and media personality, has etched his name in the culinary world through his food-focused television shows, cookbooks, and philanthropic endeavors. In South Africa, he is widely recognized as the face of the esteemed local seasoning company, Robertsons Spices.

Riffel's charm extends beyond the kitchen, as showcased in Robertsons' TV commercials where he effortlessly guides viewers through preparing dishes that resonate with home chefs. The warmth of his persona is further emphasized as he embraces his children during shared family meals, creating a relatable and inviting image.

Known as the local boy who has achieved remarkable success, Reuben Riffel embodies authenticity, making him someone you'd want to share a beer with around a braai barbecue. His public image aligns seamlessly with the person he is beneath the spotlight, a testament to his introspective approach to identity and roots.

Growing up with his mother working in a restaurant, Riffel was exposed to diverse tastes that differed from his home kitchen. He recalls a time when certain foods were considered rare treats, reserved for special occasions. This sense of occasion was intertwined with the unique culinary skills of family members, like an aunt skilled in cake-making or a grandmother adept at baking bread.

For Riffel, food wasn't merely about the ingredients; it was a celebration of the individuals crafting the meals and their connection to those they were cooking for. These formative memories shape his current cooking philosophy, emphasizing a deep respect for the past, even as he navigates the world of haute cuisine within the luxurious confines of renowned restaurants.

‘Reuben's’, his flagship restaurant in Cape Town, resides within one of South Africa's most opulent hotels, the "One&Only" Hotel. Taking over the space previously occupied by Ramsay's Maze in 2010, Riffel continues to weave his culinary magic, honoring tradition while crafting exquisite experiences in a setting of unparalleled luxury.

Early Life

Reuben Riffel was born on December 23, 1974, in Franschhoek, Cape Province, South Africa, and is one of three siblings. His upbringing unfolded in Groendal, a picturesque valley nestled in Franschhoek, where the significance of cooking and savoring delectable meals held a central place. Riffel's family dynamics included a mother intermittently immersed in the restaurant industry and a father contributing to the building and construction sector.

In the familial embrace of Groendal, Riffel's palate was first introduced to the delights of exceptional cuisine, often brought home by his mother from the restaurants where she worked. This early exposure laid the foundation for his appreciation of fine food. Riffel's formative years were shaped by the fusion of his mother's culinary influence and his father's involvement in construction.

High school years in Paarl marked a phase where Riffel discovered his affinity for hands-on work. Fond memories from this period include engaging in activities that allowed him to use his hands creatively. Notably, Riffel's adolescence unfolded during the final years of apartheid, a significant period in South Africa's history.

These early life experiences, rooted in the scenic landscapes of Franschhoek and the enriching blend of his family's culinary traditions, set the stage for Reuben Riffel's remarkable journey as a renowned chef and culinary personality.


Reuben Riffel's culinary journey commenced with a brief stint in the building trade before finding his true calling in the hospitality industry. Starting as a waiter at Chamonix Restaurant, he swiftly transitioned to a bartender. However, an unexpected opportunity arose when the kitchen faced two no-shows, prompting Riffel to lend a helping hand. This unplanned foray into the kitchen marked the beginning of his culinary ascent.

Under the mentorship of Christoph Dehosse and later Richard Carstens, Riffel's skills evolved from sous chef to executive chef at Chamonix. His journey was characterized by humility, hard work, and a genuine passion for learning. The unexpected absence of Richard thrust him into the role of executive chef, a position he seamlessly embraced, impressing patrons and officially earning the title.

Riffel's desire to become a chef crystallized when a French tourist hailed his creation as "the best meal he ever had." Despite lacking formal culinary education, Riffel amalgamated natural ability, familial wisdom, and lessons from mentors to shape his culinary prowess. His quest for knowledge took him to various restaurants, including a stint at Monneaux, and overseas experiences further enriched his culinary perspective.

In 2004, Riffel returned to Franschhoek, opening the acclaimed "Reuben's." The restaurant's rapid success culminated in Riffel being honored with "Chef of the Year" and "Restaurant of the Year" at the Eat Out Restaurant awards. This achievement established Reuben's as a culinary landmark in Franschhoek, elevating Riffel's reputation locally and internationally.

Seeing opportunities for expansion, Riffel opened a second Reuben's at The Robertson Small Hotel in 2009. In 2010, he took over Gordon Ramsay's restaurant, Maze, at the One&Only hotel in Cape Town, establishing "Reuben’s at the One&Only" with Riffel as the executive chef. Subsequent ventures included restaurants at Abalone House in Paternoster and a bistro-style offering, Racine, at Chamonix Wine Estate in Franschhoek.

Riffel's culinary philosophy revolves around simplicity, allowing the natural flavors of each ingredient to shine while achieving perfect balance in the finished dish. His commitment to continuous learning is evident in his extensive cookbook collection, which surpassed 250 volumes in 2012. Despite his success, Riffel remains hands-on in all his establishments, balancing his time between each venture.

Riffel as a TV Personality

Reuben Riffel seamlessly transitioned from the kitchen to the small screen, becoming a notable TV personality. In 2011, he showcased his culinary expertise on prominent American shows, The Martha Stewart Show and The Today Show, garnering international acclaim.

Further showcasing his versatility, Riffel served as a guest judge on the second season of the M-Net television cooking competition MasterChef South Africa in June 2012. His engaging and knowledgeable presence made him a standout, leading to his role as a permanent judge on MasterChef South Africa from 2014 onwards. Riffel, alongside Pete Goffe-Wood and Benny Masekwameng, formed the esteemed judging panel, bringing a wealth of culinary experience to the show.

In 2013, Riffel added another feather to his cap by hosting his first Afrikaans cooking show, 5 Sterre met Reuben (5 Stars with Reuben). This program provided viewers with insights on creating five-star dishes in the comfort of their homes, showcasing Riffel's commitment to making gourmet cooking accessible to all.

His influence expanded beyond the kitchen as the face of Robertsons Herbs and Spices. Riffel featured in television adverts presenting various recipes using these premium ingredients, adding a dash of his culinary magic to households across South Africa. Additionally, he assumed the role of a brand ambassador for Samsung Home Appliances, aligning his name with quality and innovation in the domestic sphere.

Reuben Riffel's television journey exemplifies his ability to connect with audiences, whether through expert judging on MasterChef or sharing culinary tips in his Afrikaans cooking show. His charismatic presence and passion for food continue to make him a beloved figure in both the culinary and entertainment worlds.

Reuben’s Restaurant Businesses

Reuben Riffel has etched his culinary mark across various establishments, each reflecting his passion for exquisite flavors and culinary innovation. Here's a glance at the diverse array of restaurants under his name:

Reuben's Restaurant, Franschhoek (Opened in 2004)

A culinary landmark established in 2004, this restaurant in Franschhoek has been delighting patrons with its gourmet offerings for nearly two decades.

Reuben's Restaurant, Robertson Small Hotel (Opened in 2009)

Located at the luxurious Robertson Small Hotel, this establishment opened its doors in 2009, bringing Riffel's culinary expertise to the Robertson wine valley.

Reuben's Restaurant, One&Only Hotel, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (Opened in 2011, Closed in 2019)

Situated at the prestigious One&Only Hotel, this restaurant graced the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront from 2011 until its closure in 2019, leaving behind a legacy of culinary excellence.

Reuben's Restaurant, Abalone House, Paternoster (Opened in 2013)

Adding a coastal touch, this restaurant in Paternoster, opened in 2013, seamlessly blends seaside charm with Reuben's signature culinary creations.

Racine (now Arkeste), Chamonix, Franschhoek (Opened in 2013)

Initially named Racine and now known as Arkeste, this restaurant in Chamonix, Franschhoek, opened in 2013, offering a bistro-style experience rooted in culinary finesse.

Reuben's Restaurant, The Capital Ivy, Sandton, Gauteng (Opened in 2018)

Expanding his culinary footprint, Riffel brought his expertise to Sandton, Gauteng, with the opening of Reuben's Restaurant at The Capital Ivy in 2018.

Let's Frite, Franschhoek, and Allee Bleue Wine Estate, Franschhoek, Western Cape (Opened in 2021)

 The latest addition, Let's Frite, introduced in 2021, boasts locations in Franschhoek and Allee Bleue Wine Estate, capturing the essence of Riffel's culinary mastery.

Reuben’s Books

In addition to his culinary ventures, Reuben Riffel has authored three cookbooks in collaboration with Quivertree Publications. Each book offers a unique culinary journey:

Reuben Cooks: Food is Time Travel (2008)

A compilation of Riffel's favorite recipes from around the world, inviting readers on a gastronomic journey through time.

Reuben Cooks Local (2011)

Focused on South African feasts, this cookbook emphasizes easy-to-follow recipes and local ingredients close to Riffel's heart.

Braai: Reuben on Fire (2013)

Reflecting the quintessential South African cooking style, this book captures the essence of the beloved braai culture.

Personal Life and Philanthropic Endeavors

Reuben Riffel's love story unfolded at Monneaux, where he met his wife, Maryke. The couple, now parents to two children, have built their life together in the picturesque town of Franschhoek, South Africa.

Beyond the culinary realm, Reuben Riffel is an active supporter of various local charities and events, showcasing his commitment to making a positive impact on the community. Some notable instances of his philanthropic contributions include:

Celebrity Chefs Challenge Dinner (2012)

Reuben collaborated with chefs Margot Janse, Neil Jewell, and Duncan Doherty for the Celebrity Chefs Challenge Dinner. This event, held in 2012, aimed to raise funds for the Peninsula School's Feeding Association, addressing the crucial issue of hunger in schools.

Peninsula School Feeding Association (PFSA)

Riffel is actively involved with the Peninsula School Feeding Association, contributing to efforts aimed at combating hunger and supporting nutritional well-being in schools.

Hope Through Action, Hospice, and Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA)

Reuben Riffel extends his philanthropic reach to organizations such as Hope Through Action, Hospice, and the Pinotage Youth Development Academy (PYDA), showcasing a diverse range of causes close to his heart.

Ambassador for Paarl School

Serving as one of Paarl School's ambassadors, a dedicated institution for neurally disabled children, Riffel contributes to creating awareness and support for the school's mission.

Charity Events (2015)

In 2015, Reuben hosted the Chef Reuben Riffel Charity Golf Day, a fundraising initiative supporting the Franschhoek Hospice. Additionally, he organized the Stop Hunger Now South Africa charity dinner, demonstrating his ongoing commitment to addressing critical societal issues.


Reuben Riffel's culinary prowess and distinctive cooking style have garnered widespread recognition, with numerous prestigious awards highlighting his excellence in the culinary world:

SA Chef of the Year Award (2004)

Reuben Riffel's exceptional work in the kitchen was acknowledged with the SA Chef of the Year Award in 2004, a testament to his skill, creativity, and dedication to the culinary arts.

Eat Out Restaurant of the Year Award (2004)

In the same year, Riffel's Franschhoek-based restaurant received the highly coveted Eat Out Restaurant of the Year Award, solidifying his establishment as a premier culinary destination.

Eat Out Johnnie Walker Restaurant Award - Top 10 Restaurants (2004, 2005, 2006)

Reuben Riffel's restaurant consistently earned the Eat Out Johnnie Walker Restaurant Award, securing a place in the Top 10 Restaurants for three consecutive years from 2004 to 2006.

Unilever Chef of the Year Award (2007)

Adding to his list of accolades, Riffel was honored with the distinguished Unilever Chef of the Year award in 2007, recognizing his outstanding contributions to the culinary industry.