News & Politics

Favorites: Cristeta Comerford

Comerford made culinary history last year when she was appointed the first female White House chef.

The prestigious position puts her in charge of cooking for the First Family as well as crafting the elaborate meals for formal and state dinners—plus the intense holiday-party season. Last year, more than 9,500 people attended the White House’s holiday receptions.

Comerford, 43, known to friends as Cris, immigrated to the United States at 23 from the Philippines, where she’d studied cooking. Her first job was at a Sheraton hotel near Chicago’s O’Hare airport. She spent ten years as assistant chef at the White House under Walter Scheib before taking the top toque.

Her background also includes being the chef at Le Grande Bistro at DC’s Westin Hotel and at the Colonnade at DC’s ANA Hotel.

Where’s your favorite spot in Washington? The Jefferson Memorial when the grounds are covered with snow.

Favorite pastimes? Reading and shopping.

Favorite television show?
  Grey’s Anatomy.

Favorite movie? 
Babette’s Feast.

Favorite book?  Oswald Chambers’s  My Utmost for His Highest.

What’s on your bookshelf now?  Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl,  The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! by Mo Willems (I have a five-year-old daughter), plus 400 other books.

All-time favorite restaurant? Too numerous to mention; current favorites include Jaleo, CityZen, Citronelle, and Equinox.

Favorite everyday restaurant? Nam-Viet on Connecticut Avenue.

Favorite food? Anything that someone else cooks.

Favorite meal for a cold night? Oxtail soup.

Favorite drink? Venti triple-shot skim extra-hot no-whip mocha.

Favorite dish? My mom’s chicken-and-pork adobo with jasmine rice.

Favorite thing about the holidays? Christmas carols on the radio.

Favorite part of being White House chef? Being able to cook a wide repertoire of food.

Best meal ever? My husband’s Thanksgiving dinner spread, especially his smoked-oyster-and-pancetta dressing.

Favorite vacation spots? Playa del Carmen and Jerusalem.

Coolest thing you’ve ever done? While on a volunteer trip to Brazil, I helped set up a barbershop for impoverished children. The kids were asking for a “California surfer” haircut, and with the help of scissors, gel, and hairspray, they walked away the happiest kids I have ever seen.

Historical figure you’d most like to meet?  Thomas Jefferson.

Favorite object that you own? My Motorola Q cell phone and, in the kitchen, my Microplane graters.

Thing that scares you? Beltway traffic on the weekend.

What would surprise others about you? I won a high-school science fair for an anti-pollution device prototype.

What makes Washington special? People, personalities, and the cherry blossoms in the spring.