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 (436)

  1. Grace Torres says:

    Amazing Grace. Hi Ina I have all your recipe books too! My daughters tell me when I'm cooking I'm across beteewn Plaula Deen personality wise but cook like Ina and have gatherings like you do to.Family and friends are very important to me too.Thank you for all that you do

  2. Crystal Roberts says:

    Hi Ina, Like so many others say in their postings, I do love your show and all the things you cook and share with your fans. My hubby even watches it with me and does enjoy seeing you and Jeffrey interact. I love your garden and can imagine us having a lovely meal there in the sunshine! Your beautiful home is lovely to be invited in to on the shows as well. I want to get all your cookbooks in time. I am retired and do enjoy making new and special meals for my hubby and myself. Your recipes are so do-able!!!! Bless you and thank you for all you give to your fans. Tell Jeffrey "hello". Your #1 fan, Crystal

  3. crystalburns69 says:

    I love INA. I watch her show every day and it doesn't matter if I have seen it a hundred times. I enjoy every one of her episodes. My favorite would have to be THE 4 HOUR LAMB. Cant wait to make it. Ina makes you strong in the kitchen. How bad can that be….. Love you INA.

  4. Georgiana Keahna says:

    We just got Dish and watch your show every day! I sure missed watching it! Going to try your sliders this weekend. Glad your back too!

  5. Barbara says:

    Hi Ina – Love you & your show. Like others say, you make things seem so simple—& they are. I enjoyed your Coeur a la Creme with Rasp. I couldn't find a heart shaped dish anywhere except the miniature ones. Where can I buy one please?? Thank you.

  6. Don Watkins says:

    Hi Ina, Just saw your Tex-Mex Chile show. As a 79 year old "South Texas Boy" I must protest the putting of beans in the chile. Bleah !!!!. Also, your guacamole looked delicious but you put lemon juice in it. I have found that fresh lime juice is the juice to use. Lemon is much too harsh. Also a little fresh orange juice in the guac ain't bad. But other than these two egregious errors, I think you are a wonderful cook. Don Watkins, San Antonio, Texas

  7. jean williams says:

    Hi Ina,
    Just wanted to let you know that I made 16 recipes (all at one time) of Strawberry/Rhubarb Crisp for 100 people. It was Great! Our church has a Community Family Life Center & we have meals for the community & take-out meals to homebound people every Wednesday evening. It was our 53rd Wedding Anniversary (June 26) & my husband said that it was the best thing that I've ever made. Also I have a picture of the Crisp & can't seem to send it to you-two huge pans baked in our new Convection pan.

  8. Pat says:

    Hi Ina, My mother got me hooked on you and I love her more for that. I have made many of your recipes and they come out just the way yours do. My husband especially loves you chicken pot pie but won't say but I know he loves it because he has a second helping. You have inspired me to create my own dishes, the other day I loved a salad we had a café in FL and I just had to re-create it. It came out GREAT and my husband again had two helpings so I know he loved it too. Thanks and keep on creating those cookbooks and recipes. Love, Pat

  9. Natacha says:

    Hi Ina! I love your show, I did some of you recipes. My favorite one is the roasted chicken. By the way I wanted you to know from watching your show I registered in cooking school.

    Just wanted to say thank you

  10. CARLENE says:

    I think most people enjoy your show so much because you are so real and not just in it for the fame. You give
    so many helpful hints as you cook , tools for life. Hope you always stay so down to earth. Seems like everyone
    these days have to have their own cook wear , dishes , etc. You on the other hand just want to help people
    become better cooks and be able to enjoy it with their friends and families. I watch your show sometimes three
    times a day. I just really enjoy your demeanor and tips. Carlene

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