Top Chef

December 21, 2018
Executive chef Cristeta Comerford prepares a meal in the White House kitchen.
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Does the president like his pizza crust thick or thin? What are his favorite vegetables?

It is Cristeta Comerford’s job to know. She has been executive chef at the White House since 2005. She can make any kind of food the president wants.

Where did the nation’s top chef learn to cook? Comerford grew up in the Philippines. She remembers her mom’s cooking. “I learned so much from her,” Comerford told TFK. “I still use techniques she taught me.”

Comerford uses ingredients from the White House garden. It is filled with vegetables and herbs. There is honey in a beehive. In the kitchen, her team of chefs starts cooking. Pots boil. Pans sizzle. The team follows her instructions to the last detail.

Comerford shows students around the White House garden.

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Dinnertime

For Comerford and her team, perfection is the goal. After all, her dishes are served to the First Family and their guests.

This past spring, President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump hosted a state dinner for nearly 130 people. The French president and First Lady were the guests of honor. The dinner was held to celebrate the friendship between the United States and France.

Comerford presents dishes she will serve at dinner in the White House State Dining Room.

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The first course was a French cheese dish and salad. The main course was rack of lamb. It came with rice cooked with herbs from the garden. Dessert was a nectarine tart made with White House honey.

The dinner was a success. “When the plates come back clean and empty,” Comerford says, “this is the best compliment to any chef.”

Nibbler in Chief

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U.S. presidents enjoy the meals their chefs prepare. But sometimes, they just want a snack. George Washington liked to eat nuts. Franklin D. Roosevelt enjoyed grilled cheese sandwiches. And Abraham Lincoln? He preferred a sweet treat from his childhood. From the time he was a boy, he had a taste for gingerbread cookies.