Chef Ryan Cole of Salsify at the Roundhouse was bestowed the coveted title of Eat Out Woolworths Financial Services Chef of the Year at the 2023 Eat Out Woolworths Restaurant Awards.
Raised in the city of Cape Town, absorbing the vibrant colours, aromas, and textures of the bustling kitchen, it was here that Ryan discovered the alchemy of flavours, setting the stage for a career marked by creativity and a relentless pursuit of excellence.
His journey, much like a well-composed dish, is a blend of diverse elements, and it makes sense to start at the beginning. At the tender age of four, you could find Ryan making sandwiches for everyone in his crèche’s kitchen – an early indication of his culinary prowess. This love affair with food deepened with his immersion into the world of cooking shows, leading him to significant milestones like job-shadowing at The Vineyard Hotel, followed by a stint at La Motte, a Michelin-starred restaurant in London and gaining valuable experience at The Test Kitchen in Woodstock with Luke Dale Roberts. Currently at the helm of the Eat Out three-star Salsify at the Roundhouse in Cape Town, Ryan’s cooking has reached new heights, solidifying his position as a prominent figure in the local culinary world.
“It all starts with us not taking ourselves too seriously,” says Ryan. “For me when one sits down for a meal it’s about coming together… it’s about sharing. That’s been the blueprint for where we are at the moment. Perfection doesn’t exist. I think it differs from person to person and from one experience to another, and it’s about saying to yourself: ‘I’m only going to look for one percent better than I was yesterday’, and staying humble in the journey and the reach for that, is what keeps me focused and driven.”
His dishes are a celebration of South African ingredients, an ode to the terroir that shapes his culinary identity and, like a seasoned sommelier selecting the perfect wine to complement a dish, Ryan curates his menu with a discerning eye. Each dish is a story, and the ingredients are characters, weaving together narratives that reflect his philosophy.
Salsify’s take on the beef-and-cheese sandwich includes a buckwheat cracker filled with smoked Stanford catalan, basil aioli and horseradish cream, topped with bresaola (cured in-house for three weeks) and freshly shaved horseradish. Then imagine working your way through Jacobsbaai abalone, jig-caught Simon’s Town chokka and south-coast crayfish. Let’s not forget the slow-cooked duck breast with duck-heart stuffing or the ‘Ma’s Maltabella’ pre-dessert (naartjie panna cotta with naartjie jelly, a fluffy Maltabella pillow and popped sorghum).
As Eat Out Woolworths Financial Services Chef of the Year, Ryan and his team are not just creating dishes; they’re crafting experiences. He invites you to savour, to relish, and to appreciate the craftsmanship that transforms a meal into a memorable moment – with a touch of lighthearted playfulness and humour.
“I cherish every award and to be seen as the Chef of the Year is hard to put into words. I believe that I’m everyone’s biggest cheerleader. I’m really passionate about the industry and I love to see everyone doing well. A firm believer that all ships rise on a pushing tide, he says, “Events like the Eat Out Woolworths Restaurant Awards really build a community and bolster the next generation of chefs.”
There’s no denying that in South Africa’s food scene, Ryan Cole is a standout figure, a chef whose dishes connect with diners and ensure a lasting mark on the country’s culinary map.