Cristeta Comerford - Pinay Super Chef

[img_assist|nid=1918|title=First Lady & Chef Comerford|desc=|link=popup|align=left|width=150|height=134]I have always been very proud of my fellow Pilipino Americans and a huge fan of the Food Network, so when I saw commercials about an Iron Chef America Super Chef Battle with Cristeta Comerford as one of the participating chefs, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to cheer her on, and I made my family watch it with me. I happen to know that she did the same, as she pointed out in her White House Blog, “This past Sunday, I gathered my family around me and together we watched the Food Network's "Iron Chef America." I never imagined myself in Kitchen Stadium and couldn't help but laugh as my daughter pointed me out on TV. It was such an honor to participate in the "Iron Chef" competition…”

Chef Comerford is a naturalized U.S. citizen from the Philippines, and in 2005, became the first female AND minority to serve as the White House Executive Chef under the Bush administration. She continues to hold this position under the Obama administration, and has received much praise from the First Lady. One aspect that Michelle Obama has openly admired regarding Comerford, is their shared notions on healthy eating. In fact, the First Lady planted a garden in April, which provides a large amount of the produce used in Comerford’s dishes. The garden is so expansive and impressive that it constituted a large component for the battle - the secret ingredient. The chefs were to use any produce from the garden, including honey from the White House beehive. 

The episode aired Saturday, January 3rd. So who were the “super chefs”? Completing the two person team with Comerford was Iron Chef Bobby Flay, and the opposing team was made up of Iron Chef Mario Batali and none other than Emeril Lagasse. The show opened in the nation’s capital, where the First lady revealed the secret ingredient to the chefs. Alton Brown stood in as host in place of the Chairman, and dubbed the battle “a clash of the titans”. The panel of judges consisted of 3 famous females; British chef and food writer Nigella Lawson, actress Jane Seymour, and Olympic Gold Medalist Natalie Coughlin. Winners would receive a $25,000 donation to a charity of their choice.

The competitors’ goals were to create 5 dishes per team, with each one showcasing an aspect of the White House Garden. Scoring would be determined as follows: 20 points total, per judge- 10 for taste, 5 for plating, and 5 for originality.

The battle was hectic as usual, and both teams worked on their culinary masterpieces down to the last second. One thing I really admired, was that in one of the interview clips of team Flay/Comerford, Bobby said he told Cristeta, “’Don’t be afraid to use your Filipino influence’, because that’s who she is.” To this, she added “Bobby has his style, I have my heritage.” in regards to their strengths.

In the end, each team presented their dishes to the judges in the normal fashion. Team one, Batali/Lagasse, had these courses to offer:

1. Scallops with Radishes and Fennel Salad
2. Oyser and Salad Trio
3. Sweet Potato and Ricotta Raviolo
4. Duet of American Birds
5. Sweet Carrot Beignets with Café Brulot

They received rave reviews along with with a few negative comments. Team two, Flay/Comerford challenged with the following dishes:

1. Fennel and Apple Salad with Oyster
2. Fresh Garden Salad with Lobster
3. Broccoli Clam “Chowder”
4. All American BBQ
5. Sweet Potato Tart with White House Honey

Their reviews were great as well, but they received what I thought was more criticisms than team one, which had me worried.
In the end though, Team Flay/Comerford prevailed by a margin of 5 points.                                

                                 Flay/Comerford                      Batali/Lagasse

                                       27                 Taste                 27

                                       15                Plating                 12

                                       13              Originality               11

                                       55                 Total                  50

This achievement was not only an honor to Chef Comerford, but to all Pilipino Americans. She shows us, with all her success, that anything is possible for us, and that no goal is out of reach.