10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Barefoot Contessa

by in Food Network Chef, October 31st, 2012

Ina GartenHer fame may be relatively quiet — she doesn’t have a line of cookware, there isn’t a namesake restaurant — but make no mistake: Ina Garten is a powerhouse celeb chef.

Fans know her story well: From a White House budget analyst to specialty food-store owner, her path to stardom has been slow and steady. In 1978 she bought the Barefoot Contessa in East Hampton; after 20 years she quit and sold it to the employees, only then embarking on cookbooks. Her first was published in 1999.

Now, with her eighth cookbook (Barefoot Contessa: Foolproof ) out and her show entering its 11th year, the publicity-shy chef has plenty to dish about.

1. She cooks only from her cookbooks. “I trust them,” she says. And after all these years, she still prefers a recipe over winging it. “I’m a science person. I measure everything.”

2. She’s never watched herself on TV. “I couldn’t possibly. If I watched a show, I don’t think I’d ever do it again,” she laughs. “Filming is still the most frightening thing I’ve done. It’s just sheer terror. I haven’t gotten used to it yet.”

3. She eschews fancy foods. “When I did fancy things in the store, nobody really bought them. People wanted roast chicken and roasted carrots. I’m inspired by specialty food-store recipes as opposed to restaurants.” For dinner parties, her go-to meal is equally simple: whiskey sours, rack of lamb and orzo with roasted vegetables. “Everyone loves it. It never fails.”

4. She refuses to endorse products. “I’ve been asked to do everything from dining tables to clothing — who would want me to do their clothing? — to soy sauce,” she says. “Yesterday I was asked to do something with the United Nations. I mean, solve the problems of the world? Yeah, I’ll make everyone chicken pot pie and they’ll be happy [laughs]!”

5. She works only with friends. “A lot of people have asked to be guests, but I really keep it to friends. I don’t think you can fake a party,” she says. A new and notable favorite: Tina Fey.  “She’s wonderful. She’s everything you think she is and gorgeous to boot.”

6. She admires Bobby Flay. “How does he do it? He blows me away. He has restaurants all over the world, cookbooks, television shows. I can’t imagine how he does it, and he does them all well,” she says.

7. She doesn’t cook for herself. “Cooking is a sharing thing; it’s not about the cooking itself,” she says. “If I’m by myself, I’ll have fruit, yogurt and granola or get soup from somewhere nearby, like Loaves & Fishes.”

8. She’s happily type A. “I’m satisfied when something is done very well. I feel I need to have my hands in it. My publisher will tell you that there isn’t a font or color or recipe or ingredient I haven’t been involved with. I don’t have a lot of people around me; I do it all myself, so that limits what I can do. But for me, I find that very satisfying.”

9. She’s more pop savvy than you’d think. “I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan,” she admits. And her favorite shows? Serial dramas, like Homeland.

10. She loves Thanksgiving. “It’s my favorite meal to make each year,” she says. On this year’s menu: Accidental Turkey from Foolproof, spinach gratin, truffle mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie with rum. “Booze is always my secret weapon!” she jokes.

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Comments (384)

  1. sarah says:

    I love watching your show and was really excited when I head you had a product line out which are different thing made from scratch then I found out just for a box of brownie mix it cost 10 dollars. Why have a product that is so expensive that most of your fans cant affort to buy?

  2. Connie Kozma says:

    Hello Ina:
    I am a daily viewer of your shows and so enjoy trying your recipes and also love the back ground music that is played while your cooking. I have a question and do not know how to 'Ask Ina". My husband and I are hosting a Baptismal luncheon for our new grandson and expect 25 guests. I want to serve finger sandwiches and of course a few side dishes as well, how many sandwiches should be made for 25 guests? Thank you in advance.

  3. Rosemary says:

    Ina, love your show! Not a day goes by that I need my ina fix! Lol! I would love to locate a barefoot contessa mug. Where should I find one? Also, my daughter is getting married in NYC on dec 20th and reception is at cipriani's.i would love your input on reception tables! You have the most elegant style!

  4. Edwin says:

    Hi Ina, that was my mothers name also, I enjoy your show and I'm looking for a substitute for garlic. My wife goes to the ER when she has garlic.

    HELP

  5. Dear Ina,
    You are truly the best!! I love everything about you and your show!! I love your calm and cool style. You entertain with class and casual elegance, and your recipes are THE BEST!! You are so down to earth and warm, unlike the theatrical and obnoxious Rachel Ray and some of the others. They don't come anywhere close to your cooking! When your show comes on I stop anything I am doing and get my Ina fix! And…you and Jeffrey are truly delightful and adorable!! And by the way, your clothes are perfectly fine, you look classy!
    I am a BIG FAN and just want to say thank you Ina for being so awesome!!
    Best regards,
    Gisela

  6. George Russell says:

    Hi Ina,
    Your show is the only cooking show I really watch. I'm attempting to make your peach cake soon as I have to wait for the peaches to ripen and I have them in a brown paper bag. I will say that every thing you do is on the expensive side for the working class or retirees like myself but I have managed to squeeze by. When you say 'good olive oil'' do you mean the best there is in the store. I know it's impossible but someday I wish I could be in the kitchen with you.

  7. mickrussom says:

    She is also a greedy, rude recluse that refuses dying people Make-A-Wish wishes.

    • Natalie says:

      That's actually inaccurate. For the millionth time, it was NOT Ina that turned down the request. Stars like her receive probably hundreds/thousands of requests a week (or even a day) for donations, guest appearances, charity, and the list goes on. Stars like Ina, Bobby, and many more (sports figures, etc) have to pay people to respond to all these requests or there wouldn't be enough hours in a day to do anything but answer phone calls, emails, or letters from fans or people wanting something from them.
      Ina never saw the request from the make-a-wish foundation, so it was NOT her that turned that child down. When she found out about it (she was mortified), she tried to make it right and offered to grant the child's wish, but the kid's mom denied Ina the chance to make good on the request.
      Hate her all you want, but you are basing your worthless judgment on an inaccurate story. Please get your facts straight before being so hypercritical of people more successful than yourself.

    • Manny says:

      Oh come on! Just because someone is dying doesn't mean that she absolutely has to cook with them and for them. She has a career to maintain and balance, and sometimes you can't please everyone. And by implying "dying people", you mean to REALLY think that she has time to go and make all of these folks wishes come true? "CMON MAN!" You must be out of your mind. Reality check, just because you don't volunteer yourself to every request that comes your way, does not make you a bad person, AT ALL. She does great work and helps those that she can. The only rude person here is YOU by passing judgement on someone you don't even know personally. And for the record and to be clear as crystal, I'm not passing judgement on you as a person, just on your self inflicting thought that you posted.

  8. Shirley says:

    Ina I would like to get the recipe fo the egg white plovas it looks delicious

  9. Titina says:

    Ina, I love your show. I watched every time I have the chance, even iehen i know I won' be paying attention, just to have your calming voice in the background make me feel relax.

  10. Dianna says:

    Dear Ina,
    Thank you for inspiring me on a daily basis to cooking for my family. I did not learn to cook until I was in my 30's and you have me trying recipes and thinking outside of the box to reinvent my food choices. Again, thank you !

  11. nicole says:

    lol…I love when she says that!

  12. @HarleyChi says:

    Ina has never said "flowers are boring". IN fact, as any fan of her show knows, her favorite flower color is orange (as she so often uses flowers to decorate her table). One of her best friends has a flower shop in town and he is frequently featured on her show, with either her at the shop purchasing or him delivering to her home to decorate with….you guessed it….flowers.
    Would appreciate some facts here as in a citation of the show date, time, etc.

  13. Anna S says:

    Are you kidding me? Ina loves flowers. She always has a lot of them on her table especially if she has formal parties. She has a friend who frequently arrange the flower for her but she sometimes do it herself and picks the flowers from her own garden,
    Why would you blame Ina if your flower business is not doing well? You are barking at the wrong tree, Dear. She helped a lot of families with her easy and delicious recipes. I myself learned how to bake because of her. Gretchen, you are wrong about Ina. She never said that flowers are boring.

  14. Twinkle Starr Martin says:

    I can't imagine Ina ever saying that about flowers…She has a very good friend who does her flowers and she has always loved the simple arrangement's that he makes and does so well….you must have misunderstood her…..look in all her books ……

  15. Joyce Fuentes says:

    I am sure you misunderstood Ina. If you watched her show you would see that she has flowers on her tables as she serves her meals and she also has flowers outside. Please there is enough animosity in this world without people attacking others, "Don't you think? From a 66 year old lady from Texas. Please forgive and forget or call her and I am sure if you did not misunderstand she will explain herself. Enough said. God Bless you Gretchen and have a wonderful week.

  16. Marcia says:

    Dear Gretchen, I think you took the comment out of context. If you have watched Ina's show more than a couple times I think you would have heard her go on at times of the beauty of the flowers and floral arrangements especially those her Florist Friends in the Hamptons do, and calls on them frequently for there expertise. You comment is uncouth and childish. Do you really think that her one time opinion of flowers is going to change the minds of all who watch or in anyway affect your business or your friends? Fellow flower lover and Cater and faithful Food Network fan.

  17. Joseph in Altanta says:

    Are you for real, or just been sniffing, oasis dust?? Ina is the QUEEN of the Food Network channel AND don"t blame her for your not so profitable flower business..

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