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Last Updated: Monday, 15 August 2005, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
White House appoints female chef
Comerford in the kitchen
Comerford impressed with a banquet for the Indian PM
A Philippines-born woman has been appointed the first female head chef at the White House after a six-month search led by First Lady Laura Bush.

Cristeta Comerford was for 10 years the assistant to Walter Scheib III who quit the top position in February.

Her duties will include preparing all menus and meals for the First Family and their private entertaining, as well as office and state dinners.

In recent years the head chef has earned about $100,000 (55,000).

Her passion for cooking can be tasted in every bite of her delicious creations
Laura Bush

Comerford, a US citizen, developed the menu for last month's honorary dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The 134 guests dined on chilled asparagus soup and lemon creme; pan-roasted halibut, ginger-carrot butter, basmati rice with pistachio nuts, currants and herbed summer vegetables; and salad of Bibb lettuces and citrus vinaigrette.

A national group representing female chefs had urged Mrs Bush to appoint a woman, saying it would send a message to the food service industry where women fill 40% of all jobs, but just 4% of the top positions.

No cookbooks

Reports say Comerford is known for her even-tempered, unflappable demeanour whether engaged in preparations for a state banquet, or a late-night peanut butter and jelly sandwich - a favourite of President George W Bush.

She has been trained in French classical techniques and specialises in ethnic and American cuisine. She has worked with chefs in San Francisco and the California wine country.

Mrs Bush said in a statement: "I am delighted that Cris Comerford has accepted the position of White House executive chef. Her passion for cooking can be tasted in every bite of her delicious creations."

While the job has its share of prestige, it can also be gruelling.

As many as 2,000 guests a month eat at the White House, and Mrs Bush has signalled her intention to do more entertaining than in the president's first term, when the 11 September 2001 attacks curtailed festivities.

Strict rules prohibit the White House chef from entering into any external endorsement deals, whether for cookbooks or television appearances, while they are working for the president.

Scheib, appointed by Hillary Clinton, recently signed a book deal to write about cooking at the White House.

He was hired to re-establish American cuisine at the White House after years of French cooking ushered in by Jacqueline Kennedy.

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