Robby Goco: Coming Full Circle

Food was a crucial part of Robby Goco’s childhood. Aside from being one of the beacons in the industry, he’s making sure he’s also present for his children.

This story appeared in the Modern Parenting Mother’s Day and Father’s Day May 2024 issue.

The acclaimed chef behind Cyma Greek Taverna, ROB’s Ribs Oysters and Bourbon, Green Pastures, Tanaw, and many more, Chef Robby Goco has perfected the balance of flavors present in every dish and a commitment to healthy food fare.

With nearly three decades of experience under his belt, it’s no surprise that his interest in the culinary arts sprung from a young age. When asked about what spurred his interest, Chef Robby recounts that he loved being in the kitchen as a child, even if his parents were as far removed from a culinary background as possible. “I come from a family where both my parents were not kitchen-savvy, my dad being a lawyer and my mom being an educator,” he says. “But then again, I was left in the care of a yaya, who ran our household and kitchen.”

The makings of a culinary extraordinaire

Robby would often hang out where his yaya was, with the kitchen being the main abode. “I would smell all the smells, experience the sounds, and all the stress,” he notes. With his father being a diplomat, there was no shortage of guests, leading to a constantly bustling dining area. And when the family would go out to eat in five-star establishments, these experiences would influence a young Chef Robby’s approach to cooking.

Eventually, when he started baking, his mother would sell his creations to her colleagues. “She encouraged me to make something and sell it… even if it wasn’t really that good. I always knew there was something there, and I never got tired of doing it,” says Robby. “I’d come up with something new, I’d join bazaars, and when the time came that I would choose my career, I chose the route where I was very comfortable with. Until this day, I don’t even feel like I’m working.”

Aside from these experiments, Robby would also get ideas for recipes from his family library, flipping through Time-Life books on foods of the world. And in the ‘70s, when the dining scene was far from how we know it today, being able to recreate the dishes he’d only seen in pages along with his sister was a source of fulfillment for him.

This venture into the unknown seems to be a constant thread in Robby’s decades of experience—he started Cyma because there were no Greek restaurants in the Philippines at the time, even to the point of sourcing Greek yogurt himself because it was so scarce.

The natural-born leader 

One could even say that his penchant for experimentation and creativity is what drove him to make his many restaurant concepts. When asked how he’s able to balance managing this myriad, Robby’s answer is simple: have good people on your team. “You need to have people you can trust. I cannot cook in all of those kitchens, but I know the moment I step inside the kitchen, or if I see something wrong within five seconds… I call them out,” he says. “ The system has to be in place… that’s the only way you can move forward.”

While his experiences at home informed his approach as a chef while he was growing up, it’s his experience running a tight ship in his various restaurant concepts that helps him manage his household. A father of three, Robby continues to reign over the kitchen, ensuring there’s always food in the fridge and that grocery shopping and cooking is a family affair. “Producing food is one of the most basic things you have to learn,” he says. “And not only that… [it’s ensuring] I know what goes into my kids’ mouths.” 

Aside from planning their lunches and cooking their breakfasts, the family would also indulge in an afternoon snack after school. “Sometimes we’d go to a Japanese restaurant for ramen,” Robby shares. “Or sometimes, if I have a meeting, I would pick them up and let them join me. I also try to get them exposed to what I do.”

Embracing change

Robby’s passion for food permeates a lot of what he does. For him, passion is a desire to succeed; to outdo oneself. And it’s something that’s got the chef through certain challenges. “I’m trying to maneuver through these new kinds of advertisements, such as social media,” he admits. “Where you use a lot of platforms like Instagram to carry yourself; it’s not my style, eh. I tried, but I feel I’d rather have people talk about me rather than carry myself out there. So what I do is I keep on doing things — my restaurants are full, my accountants are happy, my finance managers are happy. And just keep on going forward.”

In a way, Robby’s journey has come full circle — from a child who was fascinated by the kitchen to an acclaimed chef who’s bringing the joy of food to his own children. After all, when something sparks passion, it tends to permeate every aspect of one’s life. But while some may get lost in the flame, Robby shows that with the right channels, this fire becomes steady and comforting — like the warmth of a home-cooked meal.

To read the full article, grab a copy of Modern Parenting Mother’s Day and Father’s Day May 2024 issue —available on Download the e-Magazine from Readly or Press Reader for more exclusive features and stories.





Shoot Coordination ANTHONY MENDOZA



More about parents who thrive in the kitchen?

Tricia Locsin-Cheung: Adapting to Changes as a Food Entrepreneur

Elevating a Classic: Nina Daza-Puyat Transforms a Fast Food Staple into a Gourmet Meal

Marvin Agustin Opens Up About Cooking Up a Legacy

Shop for Modern Parenting's print issues through these platforms.
Download this month's Modern Parenting magazine digital copy from:
Subscribe via [email protected]