5 minutes with the new judge on 'MasterChef SA': Reuben Riffel

19 March 2014 - 02:02 By Yolisa Mkele
MAKING HAPPY FOOD: Reuben Riffel
MAKING HAPPY FOOD: Reuben Riffel
Image: MOEKETSI MOTICOE

Celebrity chef Reuben Riffel is the latest recruit on the MasterChef SA judging panel. He joins Benny Masekwameng and Pete Goffe-Wood as his friend and fellow chef, Andrew Atkinson, hands the reins over to him.

The Times caught up with the chef of Reubens in Franschhoek.

What do you think of the local culinary scene?

It's on a good run at the moment. Chefs are experimenting a lot and the skill has improved massively because of people working abroad and bringing back their knowledge. The quality and variety of our local produce has also improved massively.

There are not many restaurants that offer well-made indigenous cuisine. Is this true, and why?

There are some but not many. Chefs have to cook what they are comfortable with. Some are adventurous, and some play it safe. There is definitely a demand for more local food and I'm sure we will see more of it in future.

Television paints the picture that being a chef requires you to do a lot of shouting and be a perfectionist. Is this true?

Not all chefs are like that. A strong sense of discipline and hard work is important but it can be achieved without necessarily screaming. The important traits are hard work, discipline and passion, and you have to be a team player, good leader and good teacher.

Who are your biggest culinary influences?

Mainly my family. I am also influenced by some of the leading chefs in the world, like Heston Blumenthal, Jamie Oliver and Neil Perry.

There is a fine line between haute cuisine and pretentious food. How do you keep your food from being pretentious?

I focus on the ingredients and obviously portioning. I want to make happy, delicious food and not necessarily concept-driven food. My style has never been about pretension or haute cuisine.

  • Season 3 of 'MasterChef SA' will be broadcast on M-Net in the second half of the year
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