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Hail to the Chef

Becky PagsibinganBy Becky Pagsibingan

This unassuming and low-key culinary personality is the star of all Filipino American chefs in the United States. Obviously, she avoids visibility and exposure in Washington events which only proves confidence and prowess in her area of discipline as she did not believe in self-promotion.  Being the White House Executive Chef, she delivers a high-caliber culinary performance and directs her staff both in highly anticipated state dinners attended by world leaders and celebrities and other formal social events attended by local guests.  Her demeanor in the White House kitchen is unlike some other known and high-tempered chefs, the likes of Chef Ramsey, TV star of Hells Kitchen. Chef Comerford is mild-mannered, but her firm leadership, strength and determination are well read and strongly felt when her team is in full action and under pressure. Her team is obviously well trained and disciplined. Behind her eye glasses, she treats every Presidential Dinner like conducting an orchestrated Kennedy Center production. My daughter, Chef Rissa, has given a testimony to this because she worked in the team of the famous Executive Chef.

I gathered that Ms. Comerford has established her own cooking style, in terms of planning, organization and actual cooking. She also injects discipline and seriousness when in action. The accumulation of her cooking experience has played a great role in the choice of her menus and her creativity in preparing the meals.

The Filipino American community in Washington D.C. was jubilant when she was appointed by First Lady Laura Bush in 2006. Deservingly, she continued holding the prime culinary position in the Nations Capital under the term of the next First Lady, Michelle Obama. But low-key as she was, then Ambassador Albert del Rosario of the Embassy of the Philippines honored her with a big formal dinner at the Capital Hilton in partnership with the Filipino American community in Washington, D.C.  At the 2007 Gala ball of the Philippine American foundation for Charities, Inc., Cris as she is fondly called, graciously accepted my invitation to be our big nights Keynote Speaker, fittingly focusing on the galas theme, “Filipino Americans who made it in America.”

Ms. Comerford continued to shine as the Executive Chef as the demands for Presidential dinners for State Visits and other social events went on at the White House.  Likewise, honors and awards continued to pour in her favor. Two years ago, Clara Reyes Lapuz of the Mama Sita <D>food products <D>in the Philippines flew in from Manila to honor and present her with an Award of Distinction<D>. The award ceremony was hosted by then Ambassador Willy and Mrs. Linda Gaa held at the Ambassadors residence in Washington, D.C.  To the delight of Ms. Comerford and the invited guests, the entire dinner was cooked by the culinary staff brought in by Ms. Lapus who flew all the way from Manila and Los Angeles, California. They used the Mama Sita <D>food products in preparing the Filipino dishes.

At last years PAFC Gala Ball at the JW Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C., as the organizations President, I again had enjoyed having the opportunity to invite Cris as our honored guest. This time she was presented a Recognition and Special Award <D>for bringing pride to the Filipino American community as an outstanding chef in the most prestigious house in the world. She is a true example of one who is “consecrated to the ideal,” lifted from the words and wisdom of Dr. Jose Rizal, the galas celebrated theme.

What  a delight to honor one who like us, immigrated to the United States who worked hard doing what she learned at the University of the Philippines and with excellence found her way up to what was said as “the most prestigious house in the world.” To add, she has served one President of America and is still serving another President of America; also a President of her native land. Chef Comerford must be floating in the air with the thought that she has made these two most powerful men in the world and their families happy and contented with the food that she provided them.  It must also be an exhilarating thought that with expertise, she has prepared food and fed world leaders and other international and American VIPs. Anyway, this chef is French-trained and carries a wealth of years of experience in hotels and restaurants. I read that every year, she attends the convention of the Club des Chefs des Chefs<D> which last year was in Beijing.  I suppose the meaning of the French club was: Club of the Chefs of the Chefs.  Cris belongs to this prestigious club composed of those who cook for heads of state. In their light moments, they share among themselves the likes and dislikes in foods of their world high-profile bosses  an interesting topic!

Cris is married to John Comerford, also a chef. The couple lives in Columbia, Maryland and has a 10-year old daughter, Danielle, who at an early age shows interest in baking.

We therefore all salute Ms. Cris Comerford! The Filipino American community is very proud of her achievements and accomplishments with her sterling performance and delivery at the White House as its Executive Chef.

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