Chef Reuben Riffel.
Chef Reuben Riffel.
Image: Supplied

Why the Capital Moloko? We have always wanted to come to Joburg, but only if the circumstances suited. We like what the Capital Hotel has planned, and when they approached us, it made sense. We wanted to be central, but not in a mall.

How is the restaurant different from your others? Well it’s not in the Cape, so it’s the first time for us in another province. The menu is different, but that’s a process, as we are still learning about the market. The décor is pretty similar to Franschhoek — there are minor differences, as we don’t really do cookie-cutter, but I would like to think it has the ambience and soul of our other restaurants.

What was the hardest thing you had to go through to get to where you are today? To sieve through all the advice, critique, compliments, and so on. Also, it was quite difficult for me to start trusting people around me to carry our brand forward.

How would you describe your food? Rustic, bold, fresh, and delicious.

One local restaurant gem? La Colombe in Constantia. It’s an amazing place with young chefs who continue to learn and consistently produce great food.

What does food mean to you? For me it means life, heritage, and discovery. It’s something that can lift your spirit; it’s a way to show love.

Favourite food region in the world? At the moment it’s Italy. I love produce-driven cuisine, and the produce in Italy and the freshness and simplicity of the dishes blow me away every time. I’m planning a trip to Japan next year. I’m involved with Japanese culture and cuisine, and it might top Italy.

Go-to comfort food? Fish and chips or a bowl of ramen.

A dish that’s stumped you? I’ve tasted some really great ingredient combinations, but it’s got to be a quail and langoustine dish I had many years ago at the Fat Duck restaurant. Also, I had the privilege of tasting Pierre Koffmann’s stuffed pig’s trotters two years ago. It’s an iconic dish, and he cooked it himself.

How do restaurants keep opening in such tough times? People have to eat. It adds to the enjoyment of life — even when the going isn’t easy. Restaurants shouldn’t be set up to fail. For me, that means controlling your overheads and not to overcapitalise when you start out. Invest in ongoing training; don’t be arrogant; and listen to your customers. Try finding farmers, and cut out the intermediary: not easy, but worthwhile.

What’s next? We want to establish ourselves properly in Joburg — we will be doing a range of special dinners up there. And Richard Carstens, of Tokara fame, is teaming up with me, to up our game in all our restaurants.

- From the November edition of Wanted.

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