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 (393)

  1. Tina Panelli says:

    Ina, love your show and your books. I have a questions…..I love the white enamel 13×9 roasting pan you use – it's not a 2" H but looks shorter. Where can I find one? P.S. I use sheet pans a lot for roasting now rather than the 13x9x2 pan and love the results. Thanks much….Tina

  2. Margaret M. Shay says:

    I love Ina's show. She's a great chef and a great person. I would love to meet her someday and get an autograph and picture with her. Well maybe someday i will travel to New York. Your show's i watch everyday and i love them. Keep making new one's. Just love your show.

  3. Robbie says:

    I enjoy all of the chefs on Food Network but there is so many things about Ina Garten that make her special. All of her shows are full of eye candy (flowers, gardens, seashore, happy friends etc). She is so soft spoken and gentle to watch and listen to. I have never cooked any of her recipes that was not a success. Her steps are easy, recipes are easy to understand and the food is available. Except for maybe truffles! I cheat and buy truffle butter, I only have to drive 45 minutes to find it and even though it is pricey, it is doable. Try using it instead of butter on the topping to her zucchini casserole. Takes it up a level!

  4. Robbie says:

    Oops I should have said there ares so many things! When will I learn to proof read before sending.

  5. Susan Clark says:

    Dear Ina
    This question has nothing to do with your recipes. But I cook a lot of stews and soups i love your spoons you use. They are deep and big. I loved the ones you had on an episode when you are typing on the computer. And they are in a spoon holder. I love antique spoon and celery holders. Love your shows have made many of your recipes and have your cookbooks too. Just love you.
    Susan from Katy,TX.

  6. gwyn says:

    i watch her shows everyday.i love ina garten and her recipes. they are so doable and delicious. hope she will have new shows.

  7. Jackie says:

    in this crazy world that we all live in, watching Ina is so relaxing. Her recipes have never failed me and i enjoy trying anything out of her books. I would love to know where to get the plastic quart containers that she uses for her stock or transporting food. I'd like to make a batch of stock and would love to have the containers. Thanks Ina, for bring a little sanity into our homes and staying true to yourself

  8. Barbara Dobiecki says:

    You and your husband remind me of my husband and me. He was just as nice as your Jeff. I wish you were around when my husband was alive. He loved to eat, especially deserts. Eveytime I make one of your recipes, which is often, I pretend that I am making it for him. You are so natural and if you lived next door to me you would certainly be my best friend. Never change and keep making those delicious recipes.

  9. Pat rule says:

    When I prepare meals for friends and family my first thought is to peruse all of Ina's cookbooks and then
    outline my whole menu. This plan consistently works and I always get rave reviews for a fabulous
    dinner party. Thanks Ina for all of your hard work and for sharing all of the award-winning recipes.

  10. Mona says:

    Someone already has mentioned how relaxing it is to watch the Barefoot Contessa show. My boys (when they were toddlers) would stop all their activity & sit down next to me to watch Ina do her magic in the kitchen. Now, that they are teenagers, they will still pause & sit down to watch together – except now they want me to make everything she's making!

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