First Woman Is Selected as Executive Chef at White House

Cristeta Comerford yesterday became the first woman to be named White House executive chef after a lengthy selection process.

Laura Bush, the first lady, said she was delighted that Ms. Comerford, who has been an assistant chef in the White House since the mid-90's, had accepted the job. "Her passion for cooking can be tasted in every bite of her delicious creations," Mrs. Bush said.

As a known quantity, Ms. Comerford, a naturalized citizen from the Philippines, had a certain advantage over outside applicants. "It's something Mrs. Bush had a comfort level with," said Susan Whitson, the first lady's press secretary. "She knew what she was capable of, and it was an opportunity to promote someone from within," which is another first for the choice.

Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, representing more than 2,000 culinary professionals in the United States, may want to take credit for Ms. Comerford's elevation. The organization sent a letter to Mrs. Bush last May, asking her to consider a woman for the job because the chef would be a role model for women.

"Throughout our history, women have been at the helm of feeding American families," the organization wrote. "Now is the time to have a woman at the helm of feeding America's first family."

But according to the White House, none of the people suggested by the organization, most of them well-known in culinary circles, were interested in the job. The pay, $80,000 to $100,000 a year with no overtime, for what is essentially a private family chef who occasionally has an opportunity to show off at a state dinner, is well below what top level chefs can earn on the outside.

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