Patrick Co Is Paving the Way in Chef-Driven Restaurants Across the Philippines

For Patrick Co, chef and owner of The Fat Cow & Asian Cow Davao, the driving force behind a chef-driven restaurant is the chef’s mind.

Davao’s food scene is known for its simple and straightforward dishes, showcasing a no-frills approach to cooking. The ubiquitous dampa grill and wet market full of fresh seafood exemplify this, offering dishes like kinilaw—featuring raw fish marinated in vinegar and calamansi—and panga, often grilled to perfection. But in the last few years, there has been a gradual move toward a more elaborate approach to food preparation in the Davao restaurant scene, a trend that became noticeable around the time The Fat Cow opened its doors to the public.

“I’m not sure if it’s the timing or if I’m the catalyst,” says Patrick Co. “But after opening The Fat Cow, I noticed that a lot of new restaurants started sprouting all over Davao.” Co is referring to the variety of food spots that have emerged in the city, ranging from Nordic cafes and vegan restaurants to steakhouses. For the chef and owner, it’s an indication of what is to come. “The more chefs there are in the city, the higher the standard we set for the food culture.”

Finding His Place

Fresh out of culinary school at around 20 years old, Co took a bold step by opening a chef-driven restaurant in Davao, even though the general public was not quite ready for such an establishment. The bistro boasted a capacity of 35 to 40 seats and immediately stood out amid the landscape dominated by traditional Chinese-Filipino cuisines, plain fried chicken, and steaks served on sizzling plates.

The Fat Cow chef and owner Patrick Co

Co acknowledges the challenge of introducing something new to a market accustomed to native foods, homegrown goods, and familiar dining experiences. However, he also sees this as an opportunity. “In some ways, yes,” he says, noting that the situation has helped propel his venture into the already established culinary world.

New Ways of Cooking and Eating

For Davaoeños, there is a particular comfort in the abundance of fresh seafood, fixed menus of Filipino fare, and its medley of Chinese-Filipino dishes. However, Co sets aside all attachments and ventures beyond his hometown to further his expertise.

“I travel a lot. I get exposed to new ways of cooking and new ways of eating,” he explains. “I’m not afraid to taste something unfamiliar, even if it’s considered weird or unorthodox. I always come home to Davao with new food [inspiration]. Since day one, we believe in always innovating.”

Case in point, the 27-year-old ditches the usual menu of two to three pages that “stay the same forever” and instead opts for a monthly, sometimes weekly, set of specials. “We want to constantly introduce guests to something new. Sometimes it’s an entirely new dish, sometimes an old favorite that’s [been] given new life.”

Curating Dining Experiences

Co gives patrons fair warning about their dining experience at the establishment: “Once you get to taste them, there’s no going back.”

fat cow davao restaurant
Once you get a taste of Co’s culinary creations, there is no going back

The dishes are meticulously curated, personalized and tailored to the Filipino palate while still offering unexpected and fresh flavors. Co explains, “I feel it’s my responsibility to not only feed my guests good food but also to expand their [culinary] horizons and provide them with the excitement of tasting something they’ve never had before,” he adds.

Traditionally, steaks in Davao are cooked well-done and served on sizzling plates with plenty of gravy. Co noticed a lack of exposure to other steak cooking methods. “The best way to serve steak is medium-rare or medium, but some people are [put off by any hint of] pink in their meat. So I made efforts to bridge that gap through marketing and by providing a stellar dining experience for our brave guests.”

Moreover, Co and his team take immense pride in crafting everything from scratch. “Our preference is always to make ingredients in-house whenever possible,” he emphasizes. “If you’re a [true food enthusiast], you’d know the difference between store-bought and handmade.”

fat cow group
Another one of his ventures, Asian Cow is located within walking distance from The Fat Cow

Patrons can expect a wider range of culinary experiences from The Fat Cow Group. Co confirms, “Every new restaurant under The Fat Cow Group will boast a unique concept and story.” While there are no plans for additional Fat Cow locations, there is another exciting venture in the works: Ta-Cow. This new restaurant will focus on modern Filipino comfort food, offering a fresh take on familiar flavors. One thing remains constant: The Chef Patrick Co collection of restaurants will consistently deliver modern and contemporary dishes, exceptional service, and unforgettable flavors.