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Sep 30th
Home Sections Food Fil-Am White House Chef Pays Tribute to Her Mom
Fil-Am White House Chef Pays Tribute to Her Mom PDF Print E-mail
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Friday, 07 January 2011 13:54



Journal Group Link International)


C HICAGO (jGLi) – Filipino-American White House Chef Cristeta Pasia Comerford paid tribute to her family for its career-changing decision to choose Chicago, Illinois, area as their second home after they emigrated from the Philippines in 1983.


Comerford’s closely-knit sisters and brothers live in Chicago’s suburban Morton Grove, Illinois.


In a rare interview pulled by a Filipino-American joint outlet, Ms. Comerford told monthly Via Times columnist and weekly Chicago Philippine Reports TV’s host Sarah Lee that “I was still a Food Technology student at the University of the Philippines in Diliman (Quezon City) when my family decided to emigrate to Chicago in 1983.


“I don’t really know how my parents picked Chicago, but I’m so glad that they did.


“I’ve always been a food lover. I grew up in a large family, so there was always food cooking in the kitchen.


“I smelled it everywhere around the house. Bulacan and Batangas are very well known for their wonderful cuisine. So these great-tasting foods were very familiar to me. I finished high school at Manila Science High School. I was really then a big science geek. Guess, I kinda married the two, and that’s food science, or food technology.”


The interview took place before Christmas Season when Ms. Comerford received “The Chef of the Year 2010” recognition award from the March of Dimes Chicago.


The March of Dimes is an American health charity whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. It was founded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938 as the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis to defeat the epidemic disease poliomyelitis, commonly known as polio, which Roosevelt had contracted at the age of 39.


Ms. Comerford becomes the second recipient of the award first bestowed on Chicago-based Chef Rick Bayless, who specializes in traditional Mexican cuisine with modern interpretation. In 2008, Mr. Bayless was widely considered to be a serious contender for the position of White House Executive Chef under the administration of Barack Obama.


T he Manila, Philippine-born Ms. Comerford said, “It’s very humbling. Of course, it is a great honor. The first honoree was Rick Bayless, and everybody knows he is a good chef and to be in the same category with him is very humbling. There are a lot of good deserving chefs in Chicago. Chicago is full of good, talented and wonderful chefs, and to be picked from that bunch … this is truly a very humbling experience.”


Ms. Comerford said it was her Mom, Erlinda, a dressmaker and a “great cook,” who had a big influence in her career. She said if her mother, who passed away last May, "did not marry early, she would probably be a Chef. She was a dressmaker. But (she) showed me the ropes, she made me watch her cooking every time. And she would use fresh ingredients, always. There was no such thing as refrigerating anything during those days; you buy foods fresh and cook them fresh.”


She told Ms. Lee that when she moved to Chicago in 1983, her Mom and her Mom’s friend working in a hotel convinced her to try out a hotel job, “just to check it out really. Somehow, it seemed like a magic door that opened up for me. Little by little, I began to embrace it. I was really liking it. And when I worked with one wonderful Chef, I was mesmerized with the culinary job. I knew then that this was my new career path.”


When asked what she will tell young people who would want to be in her shoes, the 48-year-old pride of the Philippines said, “Hard work and temperament. Hard work to me though is really secondary. Mostly it is temperament. When the kitchen fire flares up, figuratively, that is, you have to kinda like, put out the fire. When problems arise, you have to be on the top of your game. Simply put, it is knowing what to do even before it happens.”


For journalists to interview Ms. Comerford, they have to get the permission of the White House. Sarah Lee’s interview was some form of a coup. # # #


Editor’s Note: To contact the author, please e-mail him at:  (


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Last Updated on Saturday, 15 January 2011 08:05

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