Just six months after opening his restaurant, Reuben scooped top honours at the 2004 Eat Out 'Johnnie Walker Restaurant Awards', winning both Chef of the Year and Restaurant of the Year, and local and international accolades have continued to be awarded to the restaurant since then.
Competing for the ultimate prize of R30 000 in cash, Reuben and the other five top chefs were given a mystery basket of ingredients, with one hour to come up with their three-course menu, and three hours to present it to the judges.
The six chefs who pitted their skills against one another at Hostex, SA's largest hospitality trade exhibition, were Arnold Tanzer (Food on the Move, Johannesburg), Chris van Wyk (Amaqueta Foods, George), David Grier (previously of De Oude Welgemoed Restaurant, Cape Town), Jean-Pierre Siegenthaler (Park Hyatt Hotel, Johannesburg), and Reuben Riffel (Reuben's, Franschhoek). Leonard Loxton (Compass Group SA at Microsoft, Johannesburg) was an automatic entrant into this year's By Invitation Only competition, by virtue of having won Unilever Foodsolution's By Invitation Only Competition in 2005.
This year's compulsory ingredients, which the chefs received in their mystery basket just one hour before they were due to start cooking, were impala, crocodile, fresh tuna, crayfish, Robertson's 'Exotic Thai' seasoning, Knorr's 'Demi Glace Sauce' and Carté d’Or Brownie Mix.
Reuben's three-course creation consisted of a starter of thai-spiced crayfish broth with crayfish asparagus and vanilla salad, tuna soy and chevin tartare, a main course of crocodile kebab with fig-wrapped impala, Italian-style wild mushroom mealie meal, sage and honey roasted butternut crème, and dessert of white chocolate pannacotta with lime tequila syrup, dark fondant, rhubarb and strawberry.
"The six chefs who competed in 'By Invitation Only' this week represent not only some the greatest culinary talent in South Africa, but are also chefs who have stood out from the crowd and carved a niche for themselves in a highly creative and competitive field," says Craig Elliot, executive head chef of Unilever Foodsolutions.
"Each of these chefs is a winner in their own right, and we congratulate them all on their culinary achievements and contribution to our industry," concluded Elliot.