Cristeta “Cris” Comerford is a Filipino American who currently serves as the White House Executive Chef. Holding the position since the Bush administration, she is not only the first woman to have the position, but also the first person of Asian-descent. With such a successful culinary career, you would think she’s had a long passion for cooking. But, in her own words, she says it was by accident.
“I took food technology when I was in college and, at the time, my father came up to me and said, ‘Cris, I think you need to go to culinary school,’” she remembers.
Comerford first started in the White House’s kitchen in the Clinton administration after being recruited by then Executive Chef Walter Scheib. When he resigned in 2005, First Lady Laura Bush appointed Comerford as the Executive Chef. She was retained by the Obama administration because, along with First Lady Michelle Obama, she promotes the importance of healthy eating.
As the Executive Chef, Comerford is responsible for planning, managing and preparing all the menus and meals for the First Family. She also does all of this for all official state functions at the White House. Besides that, she is also the head of three different White House kitchens. The only food that Comerford isn’t responsible for managing is desserts and pastries.
Comerford immigrated to the United States from the Sampaloc district in Manila, Philippines, on December 23, 1983. Although she takes great pride in being the chef in the most important house in the United States, she loves her Filipino heritage. Comerford highly values her sense of community because of it.
“We’re just a very close-knit community. Family means a lot, church means a lot, faith means a lot—that’s kind of like the foundation of the framework within who we are.”