WACO, Texas – Kitchen duties traditionally may have been viewed as women’s work, but not at the White House. Until now. Cristeta Comerford has been named executive chef.
After a six-month search, first lady Laura Bush announced Sunday that Comerford had been chosen from hundreds of applicants to head the executive kitchen. A naturalized U.S. citizen from the Philippines, she will be the first woman and first member of a minority to hold the post.
The 42-year-old Comerford has been an assistant chef at the White House for 10 years. She worked under former executive chef Walter Scheib III, who resigned in February.
Scheib said Sunday that Comerford was hands down the best assistant he’d had in his 30-year career. He said she is a great cook with an artistic eye and a calm demeanor who can handle the pressure cooker that is the White House kitchen.
“People keep talking about how wonderful it is that she’s a woman,” Scheib said in a telephone interview. “If there is value in the gender, that’s fine and dandy. But I say she’s a great chef who happens to be a woman.”
While being executive chef at the White House is prestigious, the job can be grueling. Comerford will be in charge of whipping up everything from state dinners for world leaders to munchies for the commander in chief, his family and guests.
As many as 2,000 guests per month are fed at the White House. Laura Bush has signaled her intent to do more entertaining than during her husband’s first term, when festivities were taboo after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.