Did You Know That One Of The Country's Oldest Restaurants Started With Ice Cream?
Their heritage recipes taste like home.
"All you talk about is work, food, business," Chef J Gamboa's 11-year old complains.
"What else is there to talk about?" he asks back, puzzled. For Chef J, food is life.
Chef J isn't just part of the family that began the Milky Way restaurants, he's part of the brand. He explains how Milky Way is able to withstand the tests of time, from the time it began in the 60s because of the family's dedication. "We're here every day," he says and goes on to say that people expect to see them there. He's there finetuning the small details, making sure he's on top of everything, making sure that customers get what they pay for.
One thing Milky Way is most known for: their amazing Halo-Halo. What makes it so great? This halo-halo is true to the Milky Way brand of home cooking: of the twenty ingredients that come together in this parfait glass, each ingredient is made in-house. That means nineteen ingredients were painstakingly made, one by one, tweaked to make the right balance of flavors. Recently, they acquired a Japanese ice shaver which then enabled them to get fine, smooth ice, taking their halo-halo up a notch.
Behind every iconic Milky Way branch, is delicious ice cream.
Years before that Japanese shaver though, the whole Milky Way enterprise began with an ice cream factory. After World War 2, Chef J's grandfather saw an opportunity and bought an ice cream factory from some Spanish ladies. He then told his eight children that they each had to open their own restaurant, and every restaurant was to sell ice cream.
From the 60s to 70s, all of his aunts and uncles had their own Milky Way branch. Chef J's mom followed the mandate as well and opened a branch of Milky Way. Initially only selling ice cream, they eventually expanded to merienda and meals. At one point, they had 15 branches of turo-turo restaurants and canteens. It was at the Malacañang branch where Chef J grew up.
Growing up in Milky Way.
During summers, he and his siblings would all be there manning a station. There was the cash register, the candy store, the credit card (which back then deserved its own station because they had to manually compare it to a mimeographed list of canceled cards), while Chef J was assigned to scoop ice cream and make desserts like avocado ice cream and ginataan. He remembers those summers fondly, making fruit salad meant opening twenty-four cans of fruit cocktail, draining them into a gigantic stainless steel bowl. Mixing evaporated milk, condensed milk, and all-purpose cream.
Chef J comments on their current menu, "this is our everyday food." He describes his childhood, dining in his Kapampangan household, where every lunch had to have "sabaw, gulay, may meat, may fish, may dessert, may fruits." His friends loved coming over to his home, but he didn't really get why. To him, it was a normal spread.
Of the many extremely delicious Filipino food Chef J has grown up with, his favorite is this Ox Tongue Asado. He says, "it's always so tender, tasty, meaty." It's true. Every sublime bite was perfect, tangy, sweet, tender, and bursting with the distinct flavor of ox tongue.
It's this hospitality, this service, this vibe that Milky Way Café wants to continue to provide. When asked if they had plans to expand abroad, his answer is always: "why?" For Milky Way, they'd rather maintain quality than lose sight with expansions. Recently, the Milky Way Powerplant Mall branch has become a cafe, when initially it was more of a deli where customers bought their favorite Milky Way dishes.
The brand's dedication to quality is reflected in their heritage recipes, standardized, and consistent throughout Milky Way's long track record. At the same time, they're not taking Milky Way's continuous success for granted. Chef J guarantees that the flavors people fell in love from the start are still the same, if not better. Every time they've had a chance to improve, they took it: choosing better, tastier, more tender ingredients, perfecting cooking methods.
It's always been like this. Back then, when they introduced Crispy Hito to their menu, once just a meal they had during family lunches, a combo of deep-fried, crispy catfish with vinegar and bagoong, it became a bestseller. Every table ordered it-some even ordered one fish per person.
We like to pride ourselves of our home cooking, but some recipes are best trusted with the professionals. Sure, there's no place like home, but Milky Way Cafe comes close.
Milky Way Cafe is located at Milky Way Bldg. 900 Arnaiz Ave (formerly Pasay Road) corner Paseo de Roxas, Makati City and Basement Level, Powerplant Mall, Rockwell Drive, Rockwell Center, Makati.