Not a Black Sheep: The Story of the Underappreciated Patrick Go
Patrick Go deserves another chance.
The 29-year-old was chosen to present at the 2018 Madrid Fusion Manila. Considering that he is a relative unknown compared to past speakers like Chele Gonzalez, Margarita Fores, Robby Goco, and et cetera, the selection already speaks of his caliber. Unfortunately, corrupt politicians caused Madrid Fusion's future to be uncertain and the promise of Go's much-deserved recognition with it.
Go first came into the dining public's consciousness as senior chef de partie for Jordy Navarra (also a former MFM presenter) in the original Black Sheep at the W Building, Bonifacio Global City. He took the reins when the restaurant reopened in a new location with a new vibe on Chino Roces in January 2016.
As a famously chef-driven restaurant, the concept of Black Sheep should have been enough to place him among the ranks of the country's most notable chefs—or at least notable chefs to watch—but the name choice killed whatever chance he had. Go was trapped under his predecessor's shadow.
"Majority of the partners thought that [Black Sheep] already had a following, so we might as well go with the same name," the young chef explains. Go thought otherwise, but he was outnumbered.
"I had to adjust the dishes based on the style of the previous restaurant. It ended up being very multicultural, unfocused. I tried to put myself sa menu. I had to be very refined, creative, and [go for] fine dining. I had to pattern myself after Jordy,” he adds. "Most guests came expecting the same Black Sheep dishes. Some would order Bahay Kubo [a dish made popular by Navarra, currently offered at his restaurant, Toyo]. That kind of sucked."
Four months after reopening, the other owners realized that people weren't prepared for Go's own modern style. When they finally let the ambitious chef be himself, it was too late. Word of mouth had already spread and the word was that Black Sheep wasn't the same anymore—something the owners should have owned up to. The ghost of restaurant past stuck around like a plague and a year and a half after Black Sheep revamped, guests still looked for the Navarra’s tocino bread and longganisa ice cream.
Like Black Sheep under Navarra, Black Sheep under Go lasted only a year and eight months. The difference was that this time, it wasn't their choice.
“It was an abrupt closing. Hindi ko nga nasabihan properly 'yung staff. We decided to close it rather than accumulate more expenses. We left everything to the land owner.” Though unfortunate, he was hopeful. “I guess it’s a blessing because now we can play around more and refine the idea.”
Black Sheep closed in November 2017. After a short respite, however, Go wanted to open 2018 with a fresh start, and fortunately, his old team was ready and waiting. “I wanted to open a resto right ahead. But we eventually decided that we shouldn’t rush into it if we want it to work this time. I have partners who are ready to invest again. I’m very thankful they stayed with me. They have believed in the concept from the very beginning. They know that it can work with a different name and spot.”
Some of his chefs have also remained loyal, waiting patiently for the new restaurant. Though he advised him to work for others for now, they firmly stuck by him. To make their wait worth it, Go kept the team productive with pop-ups.
Go has been collaborating with select restaurants to test his new menu. They act not just as research and development for his team, but also as a way to test how ready the market it for his interpretation of Filipino-Chinese cuisine. To date, he has featured his inventive dishes at Bar Pintxos and at Dulo, an even space in Poblacion. He has another one at Agimat bar.
At the recent two-night special dinner held at the Launch Lab Kitchen, Go served nine inspired and inspiring dishes that seamlessly married Chinese flavors and local ingredients. There was scallion bing pancake topped with a rich dan dan beef sauce, Kitayama wagyu beef tartare with a ma la dressing, beef shank with spiced char siu, wok fried Kalinga red rice with kiniing (a Benguet smoked meat), and taho composed of coconut, lemon granita and ginger honey tapioca.
On print and in flavor, his fare is definitely well thought of, neither forced nor superficial. He could have easily gone with an adobo pao or a tinola xiao long bao, but that’s just not representative of his palate and experience. His cuisine has been refined by time, and enhanced by memories of home, having grown up in a house ran by an Ilongga mother, a Chinese father, and a lola who cooked the most special feasts.
“We have jotted down a lot of recipes and we are trying them out in these events,” he says. “We’re just gonna refine them come resto opening. At least covered na yung cost.” Hopefully, his new concept will open this year. They already have the name, the food, the look, and the contractors. The only thing missing is physical space.
“I’m kinda rushing but in a way, I’m not. I have been itching to cook. I want to stay relevant and friends have been asking when I will open already.”
Patrick Go’s time is about to come. And soon.