HerStory October 2020: Cristeta Comerford

Our October HerStory recipient, Cristeta Comerford, is a really good cook. So good, in fact, that she became the first woman AND the first person of Asian decent to hold the title of White House Executive Chef in 2005.

Born in 1962 in Sampaloc, Manila, in the Philippines, Comerford studied food technology at the University of the Philippines, but left to emigrate to the US before finishing college. She worked her way up through the ranks of chefdom, and impressed everyone she worked with with both her strong work ethic and her intuitive cooking style, which she credits to her mother. Comerford has been the White House Executive Chef since 2005, first appointed by Barbara Bush, after serving as a sous chef in the White House for ten years. 

The world of the professional chef is still one that’s dominated by men, even though women are traditionally the ones cooking in their own homes. Comerford realizes what an inspiration her story is to many up-and-coming chefs, and shares her wisdom and knowledge freely. She doesn’t believe she’s reached the pinnacle of what she can achieve, because, as she says, “once you’ve accepted the fact that this is the pinnacle…what is the next step? You go down right? So I think in life, you should never take anything to be the pinnacle. Everything you [achieve should] just be a stepping stone to a better thing.”

Growing up in a large Filipino family, Comerford learned at the knee of a matriarch who effortlessly provided tasty food to her large brood. She learned to navigate small spaces with lots of people, to create foods that appeal to a broad range of palettes, to incorporate seemingly disparate culinary influences into appealing dishes. But she also learned that her family and her interpersonal relationships are what truly feed her, and she both relies on and works to nourish those relationships. On cooking at home, she and her husband are of one mind: if it takes more than 10 minutes, it’s a lot of work. 

Our October colorway, Para su Chef, is one created for this chef, this immigrant who really does get the job done, who has shattered glass ceilings, and keeps on cooking.