Pinoy Food for the Soul is a series where people who love Filipino food tell us their favorite Filipino food memory with us.

Chef Cristina Quackenbush is the owner, executive chef and driving force behind Milkfish, New Orleans' only Filipino restaurant. Chef Cristina started Milkfish as a pop-up with encouragement from her mentor and others, especially her fellow cooks in the industry who had tasted her Filipino cooking. Cristina runs the restaurant with her fiancé, Dean Lambert, and her five kids work in the family business, too. In this Pinoy Food for the Soul, Chef Cristina tells us about her childhood growing up in rural Indiana.

Chef Cristina Quackenbush tattoo New Orleans.jpg

I would come home and I would know that my mom had ham hocks and soy sauce. I forgot what it’s called, but she would always have a big, huge pot of ham hocks, adobo style. I don’t cook it here but I could smell it on the bus coming home, I could smell it outside. We always had rice on the stove everyday.  There’s always a pot of rice. So no matter what it was, I could come in, even if it wasn’t done yet, we would always dig in. Coming home and smelling the food from outside, the Filipino food. So different. You can smell the garlic and the soy sauce, the vinegar and stuff. That smell. I would get so excited. As soon as I walk in the house that smell was about to hit me tenfold. We would just eat the hell out of that ham hocks and that adobo rice and stuff. The adobo smell always got me. But my mom always made us Spam rice for breakfast. She did a really good job of keeping Filipino food in us. We had Filipino food even though we live in America. We had Filipino food on the table at least three or four nights a week. 

Chef Cristina and her daughter and service manager, Hailey, at Milkfish, December 2014.

Chef Cristina and her daughter and service manager, Hailey, at Milkfish, December 2014.

Milkfish is located at 125 North Carrollton Street, in New Orleans.  You can even reach it by streetcar, the Red Cemetery line or the Green City Park line.