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Founder of Milkfish 

Interview with Cristina Quackenbush

If you have a craving for — or perhaps a curiosity about — Philippine-style chicken adobo, pancit noodles, lumpia egg rolls or chocolate rice porridge, Cristina Quackenbush has your number. A native of the Philippines, she grew up in Indiana and moved to New Orleans in 1999 after a Mardi Gras visit sold her on the city. Today she works at both RioMar and High Hat Cafe, two restaurants co-owned by chef Adolfo Garcia, who earlier this year encouraged her to introduce her own Filipino cooking through a series of pop-up stints at his restaurants. On May 13, she was scheduled to introduce Milkfish (2483 Burgundy St., 327-0635), which is planned as a semi-permanent pop-up inside Marie's Bar in the Marigny. Her goal is to develop Milkfish as a standalone restaurant. For now, Milkfish serves on Sundays from noon to 2 a.m. and offers delivery in the Marigny/Bywater area.

For the uninitiated, what is Filipino food like?

Quackenbush: Its influences are primarily Latin, Chinese, Indonesian and Malaya, so it's a mixture of all of those. There is a lot of pork, but one of the things I've been doing is converting some of the recipes to be vegetarian because I eat meat but my boyfriend is vegetarian and I want him to be able to taste it too.

Where did you learn to cook like this?

Q: My mother cooked this food all the time when I was growing up and made sure we knew all about it. Every time we had a party, I was there cooking. It really is something you usually have at home and at parties. It's very rare to find it in restaurants and that's always been surprising to me because whenever people try it they usually have a positive response.

You've run pop-ups in a few locations. How do you find the pop-up format for a new eatery?

Q: Taking over different people's kitchens is something to get used to, because everyone has their kitchen set up a different way. But it's been a great way to meet different people and see their reactions and that just motivates you more to do it. I didn't think it would be so successful until we tried. — IAN MCNULTY


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