For Reuben Riffel, food is time travel.
As he says; “It is a vehicle that has the power, through smells, tastes, colours and shapes, to take us back to another time”.
His upbringing has shaped this remarkable chef in a very profound way.
He explains, “Food evokes memory and emotion like nothing else, especially when these are connected to your childhood and your mother’s cooking”.
He has been deeply influenced by his mother’s cooking and where he grew up, where he comes from and his family. His journey has been a fascinating one.
He writes in a moving and sensitive way about how he has gotten to where he is today. What comes across about Rueben is how utterly grounded he is. As I read through this beautiful and moving book I couldn’t help feeling grateful that Reuben has ended up being a passionate chef.
Unusually for a chef, he truly understands the connections between eating, food and emotions.
As I turned the last page I felt I had been let into Reuben’s world, as he shares with the reader the things that really make him tick. He explains the inspiration for the dishes he produces and how important the people who surround him in the kitchen are. In fact, he describes them as vital.
There is a palpable generosity of spirit in Reuben, as he does not mind sharing his secrets, which he loves to do in particular with up and coming chefs.
The recipes are inspiring and easy to follow. They reflect directly what is served in his restaurant in Franschhoek. It’s actually the kind of food we all want to eat.
Drool over recipes such as French onion soup, curried mussel soup, warm lamb salad with yoghurt and mint dressing, angel fish baked in coconut lime and chilli, grilled yellowtail with preserved lemon, garlic parsley and chilli.
More mouth watering recipes include baby chicken with rosemary and lemon, T-bone steak with anchovy, garlic and parsley butter.
Dessert recipes take you on a tongue tantalising trot through Muscat crème Brule with plum ice cream, rhubarb tarts, poached peach and plum with passion fruit and tequila syrup.
This is a chef who has the knack of taking risks and knowing what flavours are going to work together. He says that being a good cook means being open to the opportunities presented by fresh produce. Well, all I can say is that reading this cookbook is utterly inspiring.
Reuben Riffel rocks.
Available in good bookshops for R365.