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 (385)

  1. Art Dunlap says:

    Hello Ina! I feel as I know you but know I don't. You have given me so many great dinner parties and I can only thank you from the bottom of my as well my guest stomachs. You live not far from my best friends house in Sag Harbor as well 3mile.If you see a grey 57 thunderbird with red interior it is me!! Your husband is so lucky to have such a sweet and talented chef as his wife. I am doing the grilled chicken today and can hardly wait to put on the grill !!!!!!! THANK YOU TRULY FOR ALL THE WONDERFUL MEALS YOU HAVE CREATED!!!!!!!! Best regards Art

  2. Suzanne says:

    Hi Ina i'm from belgium i really like to cook from your books and my husband loves to eat it i have had a lot of fun with your recipes have all your books .Thanks for great recipes

  3. Estelle Knights says:

    Hi Ina would like to know what has gone wrong when a cake ends up with a streak going through it?

    You had mentioned this before on one of your programs and I have forgotten.

  4. MarthainKS says:

    I was so excited to hear Ina on the local radio station yesterday – she's my favorite FN cook. She's genuine & her recipes aren't complicated with lots of unusual ingredients. I'm loving this new series where she visits locations in NYC. Since I'm in the middle of the country, I enjoy experiencing the city through her eyes. Also, I'd like to have a clone of cutie Jeffrey. I'd be willing to make a chicken every Friday for him.

  5. Nina says:

    You're amazing. Even if I don't make a dish using your recipe you and your show inspire me to make each meal worth eating. You teach people how to behave in the kitchen and in life. And good for you not taking promotional deals, they make you some fast money and ruin your reputation.

    • judy love says:

      you are so right–i have made a book from you recipes that i have got from her show..last thanksgiving was just her day–right down to the after drink..her and ann burrell have big books in my kitchen…

  6. jjsnani says:

    I so enjoy your show, and now I am enjoying your brilliant husband's writings. The two of you, dare I say it, really are very cute together! Love how you measure everything…I'm a "wing it gal" (except for baking). You have inspired me to try new things in my own recipes.

    Thanks so much!

  7. Ivy Keeling says:

    I love Ina……I find your show very calming. Plus I learn so much from you. I tell my friends "I want to be Ina's friend"……………..Keep cooking.

  8. Robert says:

    Ina is my favorite chef, her food is simple to make and delicious, her shows are relaxing, inspiring and elegant. Most important Ina stays true to herself, cooking she is not putting her name on toilet seat, mattresses or 100 restaurants that you know she couldn’t possible visit. Thank you Ina.

  9. Iveta says:

    I have not had the luxury of mothers or grandmothers teaching me how to cook. As a result, I dreaded cooking and, particularly, baking. But both my husband and I love good food. What a conundrum! Then I tasted a cake a friend made from one of Ina's recipes and I could not stop eating it. By the end of the party, I must have had at least three slices (I cannot even remember which cake it was, just that it was so so good). She told me about Ina's show and cookbook (at that time there only was one). That was it! I bought the cookbook and tried every single recipe from it and all of it was exceptional. I now own all of the books and made many many of the recipes for my husband, friends, co-workers. I always get compliments. And I always tell them: It's not my genius, it's Ina's. She made a hesitant cook into a confident one. I now love cooking and am eagerly awaiting each new cookbook. I even take e-copies of the cookbooks with me on vacations. I will forever be grateful to Ina that she opened my mind and eyes to a new world of good, honest, simple yet elegant food. To me, there is no one better to learn from than Ina. Thank you.

  10. Mary says:

    My mother didn't enjoy cooking and I never have been a very good cook. But my husband loves to entertain and have people over for dinner. I found the Barefoot Contessa tv show and became inspired to try new and easy recipes that look like I have been in the kitchen all day. I enjoy watching her shows everyday and I go to the website if I ever need a recipe. Each show is like personally being in Ina's kitchen. Thank you Ina for bringing joy back into cooking.

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