What Spill Blog had predicted three weeks ago, but what Reuben Riffel had denied vehemently to the media and to ourselves, has been announced in the Sunday Times today – Reuben Riffel will take over the helm of one of the restaurants at the One&Only Cape Town, establishing a Reuben’s restaurant in the space vacated by Gordon Ramsay’s maze at the end of July, on 1 October.  This will be the third Reuben’s, joining the restaurant family in Franschhoek and Robertson.   Reuben has committed to spending three days a week at the Hotel, to look after the restaurant.

Following speculation about him taking over the restaurant, which he denied, Riffel had warned restaurateurs to heed the example of Ramsay spreading himself too thin, and in not having a hands-on control over one’s restaurants, as quoted in sake24.  

We congratulate Reuben and his team, and wish them huge success in a very large space of 170 seats to fill, with all eyes from the Cape Town and international market focused on how he will fill Ramsay’s shoes.  Reuben’s largest challenge will be the service level offered, it not having been a strength of his restaurants in more recent times. 

The full Sunday Times story follows:  

“One of South Africa’s top chefs, Reuben Riffel, has been picked to be the apple of hospitality tycoon Sol Kerzner’s eye.

Riffel – who has gone from eating pig’s head as a youngster to feeding well-heeled patrons his signature ginger and caramel pork belly – will replace famed UK chef Gordon Ramsay at Kerzner’s One&Only hotel in Cape Town. Ramsay’s Maze restaurant was expelled from the premises following rumours of crisis talks earlier this month. In an exclusive interview this week, Riffel recalled the day Kerzner, his daughter, Andrea Kerzner, and Alan Leibman, the president of Kerzner International, visited Reuben’s, his restaurant in Franschhoek. The high-profile party feasted on chilli salt squid starters, blue cheese tomato jam tarts, tomato soup with coconut sorbet and lamb shanks with waterblommetjies. Afterwards, Kerzner made Riffel a business offer he could not refuse. “I was flabbergasted. I mean, to be asked this by such a massive industry person. So I told him I’d think about it,” said Riffel. Leibman was full of praise: “Mr Kerzner enjoyed the experience tremendously, he described the food as bursting with local ingredients, extremely tasty and heart-warming. He was also impressed with the extensive wine selection.”

Riffel’s contract, signed on Tuesday, stipulates that he will man the restaurant at the hotel at least three days a week. This follows on Ramsay’s striking absence from Maze. Reuben’s at the One&Only will be decorated in Riffel’s trademark ox-blood red with bold artworks. “I want it to be more relaxed, unlike the traditional idea of hotel restaurants being stiff, that colonial feeling,” he said. The softly-spoken chef, who was raised in Groendal outside Franschhoek, got his big break when he landed a job at the Chamonix Restaurant in Franschhoek, where his mother worked temporarily as a kitchen hand. He has since risen to become one of South Africa’s most celebrated chefs”.  

The Food & Beverage Assistant Manager at the One&Only Hotel Cape Town has confirmed Reuben’s appointment, as has Maryke, Reuben Riffel’s wife.  Maryke has confirmed that they will take over some of the existing staff at the hotel’s restaurant, and that the Franschhoek and Robertson staff of Reubens will assist in the opening of Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town on a temporary basis.  She said that Reuben is itching to get into the One&Only kitchen, to “eat it and smell it”, but will be spending the next few days in Robertson to run a cookery course.

POSTSCRIPT 23/8:  The One&Only Cape Town’s media release, released today, is short and sweet, and appears rushed in containing unforgivable typing errors:

“(23 August 2010) It has been announced that Reuben Riffel – one of South Africa’s best loved celebrity chefs – will open his first urban restaurant at One&Only Cape Town later this year. The annoucement (sic) was made in Cape Town late last week by Alan Leibman, President of Kerzner International (EAME). 

Talking to the annoucement (sic) Sol Kerzner, Chairman and CEO of Kerzner International explained that he had dined at Reuben’s restaurant in Franschhoek while he was in Cape Town over World Cup. “I saw in Reuben an opportunity to capture the essence of South African spirit and pride the world saw as we hosted this major event and invited him to bring his acclaimed local flair to a new restaurant at One&Only Cape Town. We are very pleased to have him on board and feel it’s quite fitting that One&Only’s first urban resort is also the setting for Reuben’s first urban restaurant.”

“I’m really excited and proud about the pending launch of my new restaurant,” said Reuben Riffel. “Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town will serve wholesome bistro fare, made from locally-sourced produce. With the resort’s central location, I hope to not only introduce my food to more Capetonians, but also visitors to the Mother City. The restaurant will have a sophisticated – but decidedly unfussy – brasserie feel to it, while the food will provide an exciting combination of local flavours appealing to any palette.” 

Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town will open on Friday 1 October and reservations can be made by calling 021 431 5222 or emailing restaurantreservations@oneandonlycapetown.com 

 

POSTSCRIPT 23/8: Fin24.com writes about the appointment of Reuben Riffel at the One&Only Cape Town today, and questions his denial to them two weeks ago about expanding his Reuben’s restaurant chain: http://www.fin24.com/Business/Gordon-Ramsays-replacement-named-20100822 

 

POSTSCRIPT 31/8: The One&Only Cape Town website describes the opening of Reubens at the One&Only Cape Town as follows:

“One&Only Cape Town is proud to launch Reuben’s first urban restaurant on 1 October 2010. Reuben’s serves deceptively simple, wholesome bistro fare, with fresh flavours, generous portions and beautifully plated dishes. The restaurant has a sophisticated, but unfussy, brasserie feel and the food provides the exciting combination of local flavours that one would expect from one of South Africa’s most loved chefs, Reuben Riffel.

Riffel rose to fame when his first restaurant, Reuben’s, opened to much acclaim in the historical town of Franschhoek in 2004. Reuben’s has since won the coveted Eat Out ‘Restaurant of the Year’ and ‘Chef of the Year’ awards.  Reubens’s appeals to the culinary side of the soul and will be enjoyed by young and old. Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town will open on Friday, 1 October and reservations may be made by calling +27 21 431 5222 or e-mailing restaurantreservations@oneandonlycapetown.com

POSTSCRIPT 20/9 : Reubens at One&Only Cape Town has opened ahead of its 1 October opening date.  Dinner two days ago was a-maze-ing.  Read our review 

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com