Monday, 22 June 2009

Comerford Profiles 27: Cristeta Comerford, White House Chef

First Lady Michelle Obama with Chef Cristeta Comerford in the White House

Patrick Comerford

The White House chef Cristeta Comerford (née Pasia), who joined the White House staff in Washington DC in 1995, was appointed the White House Executive Chef in 2005, and has continued in that post with the election of President Barak Obama. She is the first woman to hold this post and the first White House chef of Filipina descent.

Cristeta Comerford was born Cristeta Pasia in Manila in The Philippines, in 1962. She is the second youngest child of Honesto and Erlinda Pasia, an elementary school principal and dressmaker. She grew up in the district of Sampaloc, Manila, close to the University of Santo Tomas.

From Manila Science High School, she went on to the University of the Philippines, Diliman in Quezon City, where she studied food technology. However, she left college before finishing her degree and emigrated to the US at the age of 23.

Her first position in the US was at the Sheraton Hotel near O’Hare International Airport, Chicago, and she also worked at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. From Chicago, she moved to Washington, DC, where she worked as a chef at two restaurants. She also spent six months in Austria, working in Vienna as a rotating chef.

Comerford was recruited by the executive chef, Walter Scheib III, in 1995 to work in the Clinton White House.

Scheib resigned as executive chef in February 2005. Comerford was appointed by the First Lady, Laura Bush, on 14 August 2005. It is said she was appointed to this position because of her handling of a large dinner held in honour of the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. She is the first female executive chef and the first Filipina to hold this position.

On 9 January 2009, the Obama transition team announced that Cristeta Comerford would be retained as the administration’s head chef. Michele Obama said: “Also the mom of a young daughter, I appreciate our shared perspective on the importance of healthy eating and healthy families.”

Cristeta Comerford lives in Columbia, Maryland, with her husband, John Comerford, and their daughter, Danielle.

© Patrick Comerford 2009, 2011, 2013. Last updated 22 October 2009, 16 Aoril 2013.

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