MAY 31, 2019

Bonding Over Food: Malou and Raul Forés

BY CHICA VILLARTA
PHOTORAPHY BY JL JAVIER

Living away from home as a trainee in a French restaurant in New York, one day Raul Forés perused the incoming ticket that bore the list of orders made by one of the tables. From his station inside the kitchen, he read: French onion soup, escargot and an assembly of dishes he knew only two people in the world would order together. “It’s them. It’s gotta be them,” Raul said. He quickly peeked out into the dining hall, scanned the area, and proved his assumptions to be right: seated at the table were his mother and father, who surprised him all the way from Manila.

Connected through life and food: Mamou’s Malou Forés and son Raul.

Today, Raul Forés and his mother Malou sit in the Ayala 30th branch of their family restaurant Mamou (this branch is particularly called Mamou 3.0), their uncanny connection to and through food still palpable as ever.

“To see something like that, someone grow and make those changes, and to see people enjoy what we all put together, it’s nice. It’s nice to see that Mamou has been good for people. That’s more than what we’ve ever wanted.”

The mother and son’s banter is a lively dialogue of piecing together moments of the restaurant’s 11-year history and an intelligent exchange of their shared experiences on food and family. 

PASYAL: Any memorable meals you’ve had together?

RF: Oh yeah. We bought two kilos of halaan in Farmer’s Market. We cooked it with white wine; like vongole without the noodles. We sat in front of the TV and ate it out of a big bowl.

MF: A big, big bowl of just clams with the broth. And he was so young then, maybe eight years old. It was quite sophisticated for a young kid.

RF: And other than that, when it was in season, (we would eat) talangka. 

MF: Yes, I taught him how to eat talangka… I fed him stuff that is not normally fed to children. Did you tell them what happened to you when you were young?

RF: No. I almost died when I was three months old.

MF: Grabe naman, not die. You were hospitalized.

RF: I was hospitalized at three months old because my lola fed me two grains of caviar. When you’re three months old, you don’t have any bacteria to [fight it off]. For a newborn, that’s not safe!

MF: Well, today, he loves [caviar] very much. He can eat it like it was rice, but now he has to work for it — to buy caviar. 

RF: The point is that I think it messed my palette up! I mean, what else is gonna compare or measure up to that?

MF: Ikura! The Japanese Chef Michael Tsumura…

RF: He’s there in Makati, still.

MF: He still has a restaurant in Makati. We would take him there. And growing up, he would eat Ikura, which is salmon roe—the orange one. And you know what Chef Tsumura called him? “Ikura boy.” Because he liked sashimi at a very young age.

RF: We know what each of us like to eat. When I see paksiw in the kitchen, I know for sure it’s my mom eating—a hundred percent.

Mamou’s Lobster Linguini

Truly, a lot of Malou and Raul’s most treasured memories about food happened in their own home, its innate warmth and comfort they successfully translated into Mamou.

Steak and eggs, a brunch favorite.

Originally called Mamou: A Home Kitchen, the restaurant is an extension of Malou Fores’ kitchen, where she cooks food for family and loved ones. From its signature steaks to its array of hearty, homecooked-style Filipino food, Mamou is generally cuisine-less—the criteria only being that the food is something Malou and the people close to her truly enjoy and love eating. 

RF: When I was young, my mom would keep me in the kitchen when she would bake. I grew up eating what she cooked, and I think because of that the affinity for food has passed down for sure.

MF: Raul used to bake his baon for pre-school—it’s called “Piggy in a Blanket,” which in the Mamou menu is called “Rau’s Platter.” It’s a thick slice of bread with a circle cut out in the middle. In this circle we place bacon or sausage, then put back the buttered piece of bread, then crack the egg on top. And you know, he was very young and I would put him on a stool and allow him to flip these pigs in a blanket.

Mamou 3.0 is the restaurant’s third branch, located at the Ayala 30th
in Pasig.

More than a decade in the industry and with three branches and growing, Mamou has not only been a part of celebrations and milestones of its customers, but built a family within its team as well. Malou and Raul introduce their loyal staff with a sense of familiarity and pride, and tell fond stories of crew members that have stayed with them for years.

RF: The [Mamou] logo is actually our house in Cubao. We want you to feel at home when you come here. It’s always been a part of Mamou’s identity. There’s a lot of guys in the current team who were here for the first [branch].

MF: In the dining team there’s more.

RF: Billy has been our bartender since the first Mamou. Rome, our head waiter, same thing. It’s become a family. It really has.

MF: My gardener.

RF: Yeah! Someone who used to be our house gardener is now our pastry chef. The key lime pie, the cheesecake—a lot of those desserts are made by that guy! And believe it or not, when he came in, he was probably the only one who had no experience in the kitchen. But when he finally asked to be part of the kitchen, he was the only cook who came with his own set of knives to work. 

To see something like that, someone grow and make those changes, and to see people enjoy what we all put together, it’s nice. It’s nice to see that Mamou has been good for people. That’s more than what we’ve ever wanted.

The walls at Mamou 3.0 bear photographs taken by Malou herself, from a recent trip to Europe.

Currently, Raul is busy with the soft opening of his newly-relocated restaurant venture, Made Nice in Makati, a testament to a deep passion for food and cooking that has been passed on to him by his mother. In their endeavours in and out of the kitchen,  the mother-and-son tandem take turns as student and teacher, with lessons they apply to Mamou and life beyond. 

Mamou prides itself with loyal staff who have stayed with them since opening their first branch 11 years ago.

How much has your mother influenced your knowledge or love of food?

RF: Close to 90 percent, I have to say. Because even if I didn’t learn a specific technique or dish from her, how I applied my learnings from other experiences are definitely influenced by my mom.

MF: Our flavours are very alike and when we brainstorm dishes and say “Oh, yeah, that’s perfect,” we can already taste (the dish) in our mouths.

Now that he has his own restaurant, I try not to meddle. But of course, mothers sometimes…

Tend to be stage mothers.

MF: Yes. I just want him to succeed with his partners, whom I treat like my own children. I just want to see what will blossom out of their restaurant. And usually they think of fantastic dishes I would not have thought of. 

RF: We both look out for each other as much as possible. She looks out for me when she thinks I’m stepping out of line and I let her know the same. It’s been a good give and take relationship because when we think about ideas for Mamou, sometimes we end up…

MF: …without saying anything to each other, we end up thinking about the same thing.

RF: Outside the kitchen, my mother taught me that life is short—there’s not much time to waste on arguing. I guess, my point is just to enjoy life because it can go away quickly; it can change like that. My mom taught me to eat…and drink good wine because life is too short to waste your time drinking crap! Wine doesn’t have to be expensive. You can find very good, affordable wines.

Finally, my mother taught me to learn as much as possible. Learn even if you don’t feel like you need to. You’ll be so surprised.

MF: As parents, we can only equip our children. As they say, our children are only lent to us.

Do you see Raul running Mamou in say, 10 years?

MF: Yes. He’s gonna inherit it—he’s the only child. So it’s for him.

Raul, how do you feel about it?

RF: Big shoes to fill. Or I guess I should say, big heels to fill!

Mamou 3.0 is open Mondays to Sundays, 11:30 am to 3 pm, 6 pm to 10:30 pm at Ayala Malls The 30th.

Instagram