MANILA — The University of the Philippines (UP) has conferred an honorary degree upon Cristeta Comerford, the first Asian and first female executive chef of the White House.
Comerford received the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, on Monday at the Bahay ng Alumni of UP Diliman.
Before going to the United States in 1983, she studied BS Food Technology at the College of Home Economics in the Quezon City-based state university.
In her acceptance speech, Comerford recalled how her love for food and cooking started, stressing the importance of remembering one’s roots.
“One of my most favorite Tagalog salawikain goes like this, and it could be yours as well – ‘Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan,’” she said.
“Maasin, San Rafael, Bulacan is where it all started for me,” she went on, sharing stories from her summer breaks with her grandparents at the farm. “This is where I began to understand the values of work ethics, perseverance, and community. This is where my earliest and fondest food memories ignited my passion and interest in my profession.”
Working at the White House since 1997, Comerford was promoted to executive chef in 2005 by former First Lady Laura Bush.
She has since continued to serve succeeding US presidents, their families, and guests.
In 2014, Comerford received the Gawad ng Pangulo Pamana ng Pilipino Award, one of the three presidential awards for overseas Filipino individuals and organizations.