By ANSLEY HAMAN
Scripps Howard News Service
November 30, 2005
WASHINGTON - Chef Cris Comerford, the first woman to head the White House kitchen, spent months preparing for her first gauntlet of holiday dinners. She presented her menu on Wednesday.
Comerford, who was appointed White House Executive chef in August, unveiled this year's party fare for 26 events in the next 21 days.
"We're so thrilled to have her with us," said first lady Laura Bush, as she presented the White House Christmas menu and decorations.
Keeping with Bush's 2005 holiday theme, "All Things Bright and Beautiful," Comerford chose festive foods from regions and ethnic groups across the country. And this year's menu theme - like that of the decorations - is simplicity.
Her menu includes Virginia country cured ham, smoked Alaskan salmon raised in Maine and Maryland crab cakes. Cheeses, sweet potato souffle and hot tomato bullion also made the list. She didn't forget to include ethnic flavors, such as Thai peanut chicken skewers.
She put together a menu that reflects changes in America's melting pot, which now includes many cultures.
"Our food has changed also," she said. "I'm going to infuse a little bit of ethnicity in there."
This may be Comerford's first Christmas as head of the White House kitchen, but she isn't a rookie there. She began as an assistant chef in 1995. She is trained in French classical techniques and specializes in American and ethnic cuisine.
She received her bachelor's degree in food technology at the University of the Philippines before working in Austria and the United States.
Her kitchen will serve about 9,500 guests over the holidays, in part with the more than 2,100 pounds of sweet potatoes that arrived at the White House.
The new executive chef isn't the only one who will be busy in the kitchen over the holidays. Chief pastry chef Thaddeus DuBois, in his second year, introduced his spread of seasonal desserts Wednesday. This year's 30,000 cookies include shapes of the president's pets, Barney Bush and Miss Beazley.
DuBois created his second gingerbread replica of the White House, which required 100 pounds of gingerbread and150 pounds of dark and white chocolate. His final touches on the 3-foot house placed trees and presidential pets in the yard.
The first lady raved about this year's house.
"It's so perfect for this year's decorations," Bush said. "It's so elegant."
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