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First female chosen for White House chef


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article from NYT

... there are unmentioned chefs high on the White House list.  The best-known candidates, though, have obvious advantages. Chris Ward is the chef at Mercury Grill ... Cristeta Comerford, a naturalized citizen from the Philippines, would be the first woman and the first member of a minority group to be the executive chef.

The next chef knows that the pay will not match the prestige of the position... there is little incentive to leave a high six-figure income ...for a salary of $80,000 to $100,000.

Would you give up your job, lucrative endorsements, book contracts, speaking engagements to work for the White House? :rolleyes:

(responses should reflect the job of a chef and not be political in nature, please.)

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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and the winner is announced!

Aug. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Cristeta Comerford was named White House executive chef today, the first woman ever to hold the post, First Lady Laura Bush said in a statement.  Comerford, who has been an assistant chef at the White House since 1995, will be responsible for creating menus and cooking for state dinners, social events, receptions and official luncheons hosted by President George W. Bush and the First Lady, Mrs. Bush said in a statement e-mailed to news organizations.

The first woman ... not exactly a new idea! Bet she will do quite nicely! :biggrin:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I find it interesting that Eric Ziebold (former Exec Chef at French Laundry) offered the quip that being the White House chef "wasn't a good career move." The position does have rather an industrial feel to it.

It seems Julia Child was quite adamant about trying to make the White House a temple of cuisine, but had little success. As a point of comparison, I'm trying to imagine a scenario where the French President would not serve anything but the best cuisine to dinner guests.

Granted, I would be concerned if every State Dinner featured foie gras and truffles, but after looking at some past menu items I'm just left with a big question mark. Ronald Reagan served a purple dessert at one of his functions (can't remember what it was - perhaps a sorbet?) with canned fruit. In the 80s.

Sigh.

Jennifer L. Iannolo

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Never trust a woman who doesn't like to eat. She is probably lousy in bed. (attributed to Federico Fellini)

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According to this Reuters article, Laura Bush has hired the White House's first female head chef, Cristeta Comerford -- who held the position as Assistant White House chef for the last decade.

Yeah, I read it this morning, too. Loved that Chef Scheib basically said that she's a good chef, deserves this promotion and position, and refused to give much attention to the "First Woman" thing.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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Sorry to report but this is not the first case of a woman in charge of the presidential kitchens. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt all had women in charge of their kitchens for at least part of their tenure as president of the United States.

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I find it interesting that Eric Ziebold (former Exec Chef at French Laundry) offered the quip that being the White House chef "wasn't a good career move."  The position does have rather an industrial feel to it.

It seems Julia Child was quite adamant about trying to make the White House a temple of cuisine, but had little success.  As a point of comparison, I'm trying to imagine a scenario where the French President would not serve anything but the best cuisine to dinner guests.

Granted, I would be concerned if every State Dinner featured foie gras and truffles, but after looking at some past menu items I'm just left with a big question mark.  Ronald Reagan served a purple dessert at one of his functions (can't remember what it was - perhaps a sorbet?) with canned fruit.  In the 80s. 

Sigh.

Jacques Pepin served as France's "First Chef", and later turned down an offer to be the White House Chef for John Kennedy.

He took a job at Howard Johnsons instead.

SB :wacko:

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I believe that the Kennedy chef was Rene Verdon, the first French chef ever at the White House and widely credited -- along with the usuals, such as Julia, Andre Soltner, Pierre Franey, etc. etc. -- as one of the people who established French cooking as the ne plus ultra of cuisine in 20th century US.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I have a cookbook by Anne Marie something or other. Claimed to be chef for the Kennedy WHite House. Guess I better go back and reread the introduction.

The back cover of "Cooking With Anne-Marie", by Anne-Marie Huste, says that she was "chef to Billy Rose and to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis."

Apparently, after serving Steak Diane and Tarte au Pommes to Jackie O, she taught cooking and ran a private dining establishment where my then-girlfriend-now-wife dined and picked up the cookbook at a closing dinner suring the 80s stock market boom (for me, now that I re-read the deication "to Chalres").

Learned to cook gravlax from her and still use her emincee de veau recipe now and again. Sh's OK by me.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Funny... in today's Honolulu Advertiser, the headline reads "White House picks Filipina chef"!!! Hawaii is so ethnically-oriented. (The body copy, however, focuses on Laura Bush's decision to name a woman to the position.)

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Sorry to report but this is not the first case of a woman in charge of the presidential kitchens.  George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt all had women in charge of their kitchens for at least part of their tenure as president of the United States.

Teddy was a rascal. He served rich, wonderful multicourse meals to the diplomates and dignitaries and then he ran them ragged in Rock Creek Park. Do you by any chance know the name of TR's female chef? I'm researching a piece about him and would love to include her. Many thanks for any help, or tips on reference material.

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Once again, the popular press gets it wrong. Not to take anything away from Ms. Comerford, but FDR's White House "chef" was Henrietta Nesbitt, often described as a terrible cook and curmudgeon. Nevertheless, she was the Roosevelt's cook and did their parties as well as being their personal chef.

He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise. --- Henry David Thoreau
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and the winner is announced!
Aug. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Cristeta Comerford was named White House executive chef today, the first woman ever to hold the post, First Lady Laura Bush said in a statement.  Comerford, who has been an assistant chef at the White House since 1995, will be responsible for creating menus and cooking for state dinners, social events, receptions and official luncheons hosted by President George W. Bush and the First Lady, Mrs. Bush said in a statement e-mailed to news organizations.

The first woman ... not exactly a new idea! Bet she will do quite nicely! :biggrin:

How long will it likely take for her to pass the Confirmation Hearings in your senate, GG?

Edited by jamiemaw (log)

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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Sorry to report but this is not the first case of a woman in charge of the presidential kitchens.  George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt all had women in charge of their kitchens for at least part of their tenure as president of the United States.

Daniel,

So glad you mentioned this. All this brouhaha over the "first" female chef in White House, when others preceded her. But does anyone find it unfortunate that there's even a need to mention she a woman? The WH chef should be judged upon professionalism, skill, and talent. Period. Gender shouldn't be an issue...unless some First Lady (with shockingly plebeian taste) is trying to politicize the issue. (Is Bush under the impression he can run for a third term?)

David

David Leite

Leite's Culinaria

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  • 4 months later...
I wouldn't want to be the cook for any head of state.  Many reasons, including politics, fear of offending guests with food choices (stifling creativity), and the fact that at these 'dinners', food is secondary to other matters.

On the other hand, if looked at with a different eye, it could be a challenge to creativity due to how the canvas is shaped - and at best, the food may be "secondary" but in such a way that a good bra is secondary to the way a woman's blouse hangs.

(Sorry. Just trying to make a clear statement here, and it is the season to keep receiving Victoria's Secret catalogues and e-mails.) (And a second apology for choosing the feminine sex for commentary. I will undoubtedly make up for it later somewhere by mentioning the male sex in some equal manner if I can. :wink: )

The food can be and should be a charming, warming, and somewhat quietly elusive support to whatever goals have been set to happen at that table.

At best, it is.

Surely everyone knows how food can make the chilly amicable and the hostile soothed.

If the food is *only* about the chef, then of course it would not work as a politically astute repast.

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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This just in (by mule train) from the 12/30 Wall Street Journal:

"A hint of the steel behind her [First Lady Laur Bush] smile was evident early this year, when the White House ushered out longtime head chef Walter Scheib. One East Wing official, breaking months of silence on the issue, cited a 'level of arrogance' Mr. Scheib displayed in preparing dishes the Bush family detested — scallops in particular, which kept appearing on menus despite repeated complaints. Mr. Scheib declined to comment."

There's a lesson for all those chefs who get in a snit because you want your sauce on the side.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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  • 2 months later...

article with Newsweek links here

Newsweek Magazine decided to have a "Fast Chat" with White House executive chef Cris Comerford. The questions were engaging -- about creativity, ethnic food, likes and dislikes.  You can imagine that Cris was politic in her replies,

She seems to like what she's doing as chef ...

full interview in Newsweek here

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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