Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Tonight: Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford Becomes 2010 Chicago Chef of The Year

The White House has one piece of undiluted good news after Election 2010, and of course it comes from the kitchen...
UPDATE: Another laud for Comerford this week
President Obama
and First Lady Michelle Obama's Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford will be honored this evening by the Illinois chapter of the March of Dimes as 2010 Chicago Chef of the Year.

Comerford will be in Chicago to receive her award, according to the East Wing. She's been selected as Chef of the Year thanks to "her commitment to culinary arts; dedication to the environment, the farming industry, healthy eating, and an eco-friendly lifestyle" as well as for "bringing nationwide attention to healthy eating and reducing childhood obesity." The ceremony will be at the Swissotel in the Windy City, during the March of Dimes' annual fundraiser, the Signature Chefs Auction. (Above: Comerford, left, with Mrs. Obama and kid helpers during the Fall Harvest of the Kitchen Garden)

Comerford's culinary career started in Chicago...
In August, Comerford marked her fifth anniversary as White House Executive Chef, the first woman and first minority to hold the position. But how does someone who works in Washington and lives in Maryland with her family get the nod as Chicago Chef of the Year? That's easy. Of course Chicago is the first Family's hometown, and it's swell publicity for White House food initiatives, and...Comerford's first two culinary jobs were in Chicago, after she emigrated to America from the Philippines with her parents, at age 23. Now 48, Comerford's very first job was as a Grade Manager at Chicago's Sheraton Hotel in Rosemont, and then she worked at Chicago's Hyatt Regency. (Above: In August, Comerford visited China, where her portrait was captured by a high-profile photographer)

"Chef Dean Jaramillo from Chicago was the very first chef I worked with," Comerford told Chicago's Daily Herald, when asked who was an important mentor. "The very first time I saw him, in all of the glorious chef's white, from the toque to the shoes, I was enthralled and awed."

Comerford has been very active in Mrs. Obama's Let's Move! campaign, and along with Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses and Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass, she's adopted DC's Tubman Elementary School as part of Mrs. Obama's Chefs Move to Schools project.

"We volunteer at least twice a month to assist in educating the children, their parents and school workers about healthy eating and healthy food choices," Comerford said. "Hopefully, between all of our expertise and experiences, we could make a difference."

Last year's honoree for Chicago Chef of the year was chef Rick Bayless. President Obama dined at Bayless' Chicago restaurant Topolobampo on Saturday, and Bayless tweeted all the details of the private dinner.

*Top photo by EGK/ObamaFoodorama.com; Comerford portrait by Mei Le