Voice Woman A rebel with a cause

Boitumelo Maswabi
THE REBEL COOK: Refilwe Keabilwe

Meet The Rebel Cook – personal Chef pleasuring local palates

Self-taught chef, Refilwe Keabilwe, courageously quit varsity 20 years ago in Johannesburg where she was studying Graphic Design to pursue her passion for food.

For the 42-year-old culinary artist, who first tasted financial independence when she began selling food from her mother’s kitchen as a teen, it has been quite a journey laden with challenges and invaluable life lessons.

Be that as it may, it has been an exciting one of pleasuring local palates with her eclectic cuisine.

Voice Woman spoke to the talented personal chef ahead of the upcoming TatsoConnekt Mother’s Day Brunch at Skyview Lounge where she will be serving delectable delights this weekend.

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Please give us a brief background of yourself.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my journey.

It’s been a 20-year journey of tears and joy.

My love for food, people and art is what really put me on this road.

I started selling food, in my late teens, from my mother’s kitchen.

During that period, and experiencing financial independence, I knew right then, in that moment, that the hospitality industry was made for me.

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Years later, when I took the decision to drop my Graphic Design course, over cooking, it was then set in stone.

Everything that would follow – all my bad decisions, my breakdowns in business partnerships, my mismanagement of the business – would lead me to where I am today.

Very brave! How were you able to do that?

Honestly, I was very passionate about it, so I followed my heart.

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Ke moriski… (I’m a risk taker).

It’s believing and having faith in the dream, having a strong character and wanting to see it through because the decisions you make disappoint a lot of people along the way; that creates the fuel for you to make sure you succeed.

So, through the good and the bad, I always believed one day it’ll strike, and I have.

Passion and risk taking sure are important in business, hence the name ‘Rebel Chef’?

Yes, very important, because they are the core ingredients in your hustle.

How are you going to live with something, if you’re not 100% with it, and willing to risk all you have for it.

Then you’re not committed… kana yang? The Rebel Cook was born.

The branding would come years later; I think it was 2004, at Design Centre, where I was miserably studying.

To take it back to the name, it was really just trying to say, I will do whatever it takes to stand out.

I’ll fight for this thing that I’ve created.

I really have.

True, and over the years, you’ve had successful partnerships, the most recent one with The Squash Cafe. Tell us more.

Even with my fallout with previous partners, it hasn’t killed my spirit for partnering.

I believe in collaborations.

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I know where my strengths and weaknesses lie.

It’s in finding a partner that compliments my short falls, and shares my values and vision.

My most recent collaboration is in joining hands with the team at what was formally Squash Cafè, which we are re-launching as Court Five #GoodFood.

Watch this space for changes.

The idea is to create a child-friendly environment, that’s welcoming, tranquil and safe.

We also have plenty outdoor seating to cater for private functions, be it family celebrations, corporate excursions, book launches, art fairs, team building sessions, you name it.

All right in the city centre.

Our menu is of a fusion nature, as we try to accommodate different palates.

With offerings that include loaded fries, an assortment of pasta dishes, Setswana cuisine, along with our ‘Signature Dish’ – Ox Tongue served with Cheesy Pap and a side of savoury rape – served daily.

We offer a full bar menu and we are also available as a mobile bar service.

And with House of Joss as well…

House of Joss has, for many years, been our event venue partner.

A collaboration formed through our friendship, which then evolved into business; a space that has always offered our clients class and grace.

Thus, it came naturally in choosing House of Joss as our ‘Concept Store’, to showcase and exhibit our goods… Just to say ‘Thank you’, for always being a gracious host, and to demonstrate that we are proud of their hustle too, as fellow entrepreneurs.

This project came along, at the right time, because it’s to commemorate the #20YearHustleRealised and to finally give our followers what they’ve been asking for; #RebelCookBrandedMerch.

Yeah, talk to me about The Rebel Cook branded merchandise

Over the years, I started branding my kitchen equipment and tools for our use at work.

Client’s started to notice and ask if we could supply.

I didn’t think twice, here we are.

Finally, we’re bringing an assortment to the clients: chopping boards, mini cheeseboard trays, large cheeseboard trays, kitchen swabs, wooden coasters, cork coasters, wine bags, pestle & mortars, wooden spoons and aprons, etc.

Are they only available at House of Joss?

We will be curating gift packages, which will be available through our social media pages on Facebook: I Am The Rebel Cook and on Instagram @the_rebel_cook_bw.

What can one look forward to this weekend?

This Saturday, we will be offering delectable food bites, in collaboration with TatsoConnekt.

We are serving up individual boxes of savoury goodies.

What are your favourite cuisines?

Italian and Indian

Fave Setswana dish?

Ox Tongue, with cheesy pap & rape, which happens to be our ‘Signature Dish” at Court Five.

A modern twist on a Setswana dish.

What challenges have you faced as a personal chef?

Challenges have been many: lack of support when starting because no one can see what you see, and being compared to ‘others’, even though your business model is not the same, and your product is of a superior quality.

Occasionally, you share recipes of your creations on Facebook. Can we expect a Rebel Cook cookbook soon?


The Rebel Cook coffee table book is on its way; should be ready 2024.

You also have a range of flavored salts…

Yes, 5 years ago, we introduced our range of flavored salts and pickled vegetables, which we put to a halt when Covid-19 hit.

We will reintroduce them to the market, to resurrect after winter.

Lastly, what advice can you share with aspiring entrepreneurs?

You have to be mentally and physically ready to take on this culinary journey.

Lack of experience will show you dust; give yourself the time to learn your hustle, allow yourself to make the mistakes that come with it.

Perfect does not exist when starting up; so don’t strive for it yet.

Go a tabogiwa!

You have to commit fully from day one, if you have a problem with early mornings and late nights, try something else.

Finally, get a mentor, please.

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