It might just be that Ormoc Mayor Richard Gomez needed an outlet to air out his frustrations as to what’s happening in the current pandemic—check out his Facebook page, for the other frustrations he couldn’t keep to himself.
Or, it could be that finally he is just doing what comes naturally to him and thought, hey, why not share this passion for cooking to the world — and possibly make a buck or two from it?
Whatever Goma’s reason is we’ve already seen all three episodes of his cooking show on YouTube, Goma at Home—more than half a million has seen the first episode—and we wouldn’t mind coming back for more.
Gomez, in crisp, collared shirts, makes his way around a wide, rustic-industrial outdoor kitchen with much aplomb. Behind him are piles of wood and tall potted plants with bright blooms that stand beside his own abstract painting—which may or may not have been part of his 2018 exhibit. (He paints, too, as a certain infamous yellow dick will remind you.) The show is set in Ormoc, in what looks like a very spacious manse with, judging from the appearance of a gaggle of geese, a backyard farm. The entire atmosphere is very classic Food Network, with its bright lighting, elegant camera work, and a “set” that gives viewers a glimpse of his idyllic home away from Metro Manila. To people who’s been watching a lot of quarantine kitchen tutorials, the visuals are a breath of fresh air.
But the show gets much of its charm and heart from his stories about childhood. The first dish he cooks is pork binagoongan—because it is one of his lola’s most memorable dishes.
The cooking show shouldn’t be a surprise. In the past years, and on his social media accounts, Gomez has been known to whip up meals on a whim, or on special occasions for his family. But this one feels special, like the entire project is an ode to his late lola Lydia Gomez.
To jog your memory, Mayor Goma’s parents separated when he was very young. Eventually, they migrated to the United States, leaving the young Richard in the care of his aunt. However, in the middle of grade school, the boy would give his grandmother a call to pick him up. She did, and he lived with her until he became a celebrity. In his past interviews, he has always given his lola credit for the man he is now.
In this first episode, he made sure to mention that she was, too, responsible for his culinary acumen.
“People would ask me if I know how to cook,” was the first line he uttered. “And I say yes, I know how to cook. I tell them that I learned from my lola.”
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They would always share stories in the kitchen, he says. Even the tips he dispenses in the show, like how one should cook tomatoes (cook them really well so they don’t spoil easily) or how to prepare ampalaya (carefully remove the white part inside to lessen the bitter taste), came from his lola. And as Gomez sautées the bagoong—in slow motion—along with the garlic, tomatoes, and caramelized onions, he says he knows how to tame the smell and taste of fermented fish because he lola taught him how.
The show is about easy recipes and easy-to-find ingredients. The chef and host cooks a delicious looking pork humba on the second episode, and on the third, he whips up a chicken salad sandwich spread from litsong manok. Although a recipe card is shown at the end of every episode, the Ormoc mayor pours, and chops, and boils with no exact measurements of time or ingredients—a good indication that the man really knows his way around food. It’s amusing to watch. You feel like a guest being regaled with nuggets from your host’s past as you wait to be served lovingly prepared comfort food. Lola Lydia would be proud.