BACK TO BA­SICS

Robby Goco’s Green Pas­tures takes or­ganic food to new heights.

F&B World - - Contents - By Maan D’Asis Pa­ma­ran • Pho­tos by Jilson Tiu

Robby Goco’s Green Pas­tures takes or­ganic food to new heights.

Grow­ing up, Chef Robby Goco used to gri­mace at the thought of eat­ing dishes pre­pared us­ing the pro­duce and free-range live­stock sourced from their own back­yard in New Manila. How he craved for the pro­cessed foods that his class­mates were hav­ing, in­stead of the mostly na­tive fare care­fully planned and pre­pared by their lov­ing cook that was found on their fam­ily ta­ble.

Food free­dom came for him and his sib­lings when they started strik­ing out on their own—canned meat, hot­dogs, and a dish where he would com­bine canned sar­dines, rice, and eggs and wolf it down. He in­dulged un­til the restau­ra­teur re­al­ized that his health was be­ing com­pro­mised. “I had friends my age or even younger who were get­ting struck by life­style dis­eases such as heart prob­lems or cancer. It was def­i­nitely from the food that we eat these days. I re­al­ized that we were eat­ing the right things back in New Manila.”

This was how he con­cep­tu­al­ized Green Pas­tures, his all-or­ganic restau­rant at the East Wing of the Shangri-La Mall in Man­daluy­ong. The chef went back to ba­sics and back to his roots—the warm wooden in­te­ri­ors of the restau­rant is rem­i­nis­cent of the fam­ily home­stead, and the dishes done are us­ing farm-sourced items that are guar­an­teed by the chef to have no chemical in­ter­fer­ence from pes­ti­cides, fer­til­iz­ers, and pro­cessed feeds. The name it­self goes way back to the fun­da­men­tals, as it comes from a Bi­ble verse that men­tions a Shepherd leading us to­wards green pas­tures.

NO-GUILT, JUST PLEA­SURE

The men­tion of the word or­ganic al­ready gives a men­tal im­age of sal­ads, sal­ads, and more sal­ads. But this restau­rant begs to dif­fer. A gor­geous salad bar greets guests as they en­ter, but it also of­fers a di­verse menu us­ing lo­cal greens and free-range farmed an­i­mals and fish. His ex­pert touch that first be­came ev­i­dent in his first Cyma out­let is also felt here, as in­gre­di­ents are com­bined to give din­ers a mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence of taste and tex­ture com­bi­na­tions from each dish.

Chef Robby went out of his way to source these items, form­ing part­ner­ships with small farms and mi­cro en­trepreneurs to come out with a daz­zling lineup of guilt-free gus­ta­tory plea­sures, the way that only he could. He ex­plains the con­cept: “It’s about me know­ing the farmer who planted the straw­ber­ries, so I can serve it to the cus­tomer.”

Among the hard-to-find, cer­ti­fiedor­ganic items that he of­fers are fid­dle­head fern leaves gath­ered by some­one who goes for­ag­ing in Taal, and ban­gus that is raised not on feeds but gath­ers sus­te­nance from moss or lu­mot that grows in its fish­pond.

CHAL­LENGES MET

“In the be­gin­ning, people were telling me, it can’t be done. You can prob­a­bly go 80 or 90% with or­ganic in­gre­di­ents,” he re­calls. “But it is ei­ther we are or­ganic or we’re not.” He continues, “There is al­ways an easy way out of it. We em­braced com­mer­cial­iza­tion and con­ve­nience. There are still people who are not able to un­der­stand the con­cept. It is farm to ta­ble, an or­ganic restau­rant. We give you ev­ery­thing fresh, so if you are ex­pect­ing truf­fles and foie gras, you won't find it here.”

Since ev­ery­thing is fresh from farm, some items on the menu are sea­sonal. He even whips up a spe­cial salad for each month. Jan­uary’s of­fer­ing will be some­thing about cleans­ing, us­ing fer­mented tea leaves. “It will be much like a Burmese Tea Salad, for cleans­ing af­ter all the things people have been in­dulging in dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son.”

The or­ganic farm­ing prin­ci­ple of noth­ing goes to waste is also prac­ticed at Green Pas­tures. Chef Robby made the F&B team try a dish called Head Cheese, which is ba­si­cally made from pork head sim­mered in very rich veg­etable broth and cooled un­til gelati­nous. “Usu­ally, it is a part that is thrown away. We look at the sec­ondary prod­ucts and see what we can do with it. Al­most noth­ing goes to waste.”

EV­ERY­BODY OR­GANIC

The chal­lenge that he sees now is chang­ing mind­sets. He re­veals hav­ing re­ceived a com­plaint let­ter about his or­ganic food be­ing too rich, and there­fore, not right. Also, it is about con­vinc­ing more Filipinos to go back to roots. “In the prov­inces, it is still be­ing prac­ticed, where they plant the Ba­hay Kubo veg­eta­bles or raise pigs in their back­yard.” He also sees the need to sup­port lo­cal farm­ing. “In any de­vel­oped coun­try you go to, the farm­ers are rich. That’s be­cause they go di­rect, and be­cause of that, they each strive to of­fer the best pro­duce.”

The proof is in the eat­ing, and Green Pas­tures, which is still prac­ti­cally in restau­rant in­fancy stage, has al­ready proven to be a hit for people look­ing for a healthy but ro­bust al­ter­na­tive to eat­ing out. With tal­ented kitchen per­son­al­i­ties such as Chef Robby rolling up his sleeves to work on an ad­vo­cacy such as this, the hope is that the rest will soon fol­low.

Novem­ber Salad

Char­cu­terie

Plate

Chef Robby Goco ex­plains his phi­los­o­phy for Green Pas­tures. “It is about me know­ing where all of it came from. It is about fresh cook­ing and us­ing long cook­ing pro­cesses, as a restau­rant that func­tions not as a heat and serve place. It is about our em­ploy­ees who have been with us for a long time, grow­ing with the brand.”

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