Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Your tax dollars at work, part B: fiddling

White House chef Cristeta Comerford is carefully pouring batter for savory souffles into enormous two-gallon molds. Lots of them.

It's a mid-morning weekday at the start of the holiday season, and Comerford is working alone in one corner of the heavily used, no-frills kitchen. It's a modest, utilitarian space with 12 burners, five sinks and a hanging rack with batteries of pans. She is concentrating on a particularly popular dish at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

White House guests "enjoy Cris's menus . . . made with the freshest ingredients," first lady Laura Bush said in an e-mail message. "Cris even transformed one of our family's favorite holiday recipes, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, into an elegant honeyed sweet potato souffle, which we are sharing with our guests during the White House holiday receptions."

There are lots of those, too: 26 different events for 9,500 people. Comerford's shopping list includes 300 smoked turkeys, 3,400 racks of lamb and 2,100 pounds of sweet potatoes.

At this time of year, it is all in a day's work. "Today doesn't seem too hectic," Comerford says. "There are only two receptions for 500 people."

But all together, that's 1,000 people at back-to-back events with only an hour or so between them.

And that's not counting the daily breakfasts, lunches and dinners. One day later, she will make dinner for 134 Bush friends and family members. "It will be busy," she says calmly. "The house is full."

No comments: