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 (435)

  1. dbridges7 says:

    Hi Ina,
    I love your show and would like to know how do you feel about cooking with concentrated oils vs extracts?

  2. Ron Smith says:

    I have always wanted to make homemade ricotta and decided that today was the day. I bought a half gallon of milk and sailed home :) I was looking at your recipe and noticed that it uses heavy cream—which I did not buy :( Then I got to thinking—maybe I could use whip cream out of a can—–hummm thought that it would be to sweet and vanilla tasting—Then I thought—hummm she says the heavy cream is because other recipes are to dry for her—-and then I thought must be the fat content. Soooooooo I took the half gallon of milk—added some freshly ground nutmeg and a half stick of butter. I love it. Thank you so much Ina!!! Love the show. You always have inspired me! The next one I am going to try is the orange marmalade.

  3. MotherSquid says:

    I love Ina but why does she "hate?"…..Today she said "I hate single use tools" (she was making madelines). Recently she said "I hate cilantro"…..She's "hated" quite a few other things, as well. Hate isn't a pretty word & seems out of place in Ina's otherwise carefully constructed aesthetic

    • lyn says:

      Oh get over yourself………..

    • Jo says:

      Seriously! Give the woman a break!!! we cant all love everything all the time, I'm sure your vocabulary isn't always stellar!!! she was honest and forthright and I appreciate the fact that she can be as straight forward as she is… Instead of judging, just cook, and the world will be a better place. :)

    • Joan says:

      She isn't hating people. I am interested in both Ina's likes and dislikes in the food realm. She is sharing who she is.

    • Barbara says:

      GOD Himself uses the word hate in the Good Book.

    • Barb says:

      Oh grow up……it's just a way to say she doesn't like something.

    • Get over yourself is right…

    • kathy says:

      get over it… I hate cilantro too. and single use tools are a waste of money… that's also hateful.

    • Sandra L. says:

      I'm more interested in why she hates sick children. But I guess donating time to Make-a-Wish would be tantamount to endorsing a product…and we know she'd never stoop to that level!!!

    • sarah griffith says:

      look mother we all hate something. i will not eat okra, beef liver or menudo. and i do not feel
      that i am going to hell to hate those things, they don't have any feelings to be hurt or
      persecuted. i also really don't like chocolate but i do a terrific mousse for my guests.

      so for pete's sake (whoever pete is) give it a rest. ina and giada do food that lesser mortals can
      manage and look like a culinary goddess..

    • Ken says:

      I hate your comment. So what is your point? The lady is merely expressing dislike for something. Chill out already.

    • Carole says:

      Hate? I don't think we need to be so serious all the time. Just communicating a dislike for something is not that big of a deal. After all, we're talking about a "single use tool" and cilantro. I Hate Cilantro too.

      • Lurl says:

        Once upon a time I was having a GI Barium swallow. Couldn't get over the chalky taste. Finally the Radiologist said to me think of a wonderful flavor while you swallow and it will go right down. He said think of all the lovely Cilantro sprinkled on the taco salad a Don Jose's ( a restaurant we both go to)
        I promptly had a horrible reaction and vomited up the Barium mix. I for one HATE Cilantro it is gross yet,
        I love corriander seeds in cooking. So you see I have a real reason for a gut reaction to cilantro and thus hate it.
        Get over it Ina haters

        • Natalie says:

          Haha! You just made my evening! They said the same thing to me at 7am when they were asking me to drink barium for breakfast. The tech said "Pretend it's a strawberry milkshake." I replied, "Then you drink it." ; ) Barium is disgusting no matter what it's flavored with… eww!

    • Barbara Hrab says:

      Come on…..get with it and stop being so critical…this world is too full of criticism for EVERYTHING. Suck it up!!!

    • sly311 says:

      Stop taking life so seriously. Lots of things in life aren't so pretty including being on speech patrol.

    • Cynthia M says:

      I hate when people complain about stupid things!

    • MAGGIEANNG says:

      For heaven sakes, don't you realize that people who use the phrase "I hate…………." don't actually hate, not in the sense you are speaking of. It is just a strong dislike for something. I say I hate almost everyday of my life and I don't really hate PEOPLE. Get over your self-righteous self. I believe you know better than to judge someone by their phrases of dislike. You go Ina, you are GREAT!!!!

    • Demetria says:

      I stopped watching her when she insulted an entire culture by saying cilantro smelled like laundry soap. Well, Ina you could have said "I don't care for it, but some people love it" as I do. Take your hate so emplacement else, but I no longer watch you because you are petty.

      • Phil says:

        Actually, soap isn't that inaccurate a description to describe the smell of cilantro. Personally, I like cilantro we'll enough, but it can quickly overpower a dish. All that said, I see no correlation between saying you hate a specific herb and insulting a culture that uses that herb. What a ridiculous conclusion, and to stop watching a show because of such a deluded and small-minded attitude is ludicrous. There are so many other issues in the world to be so passionate about. It's just a freakin' cooking show after all!!! And you have the nerve to call Ina petty? Reeks of hypocrisy here!

      • Teakyleelee says:

        Name should be Dementia. And which culture did Ina "dis" as so many cultures rely heavily on cilantro? This posting epitomizes pettiness…to deny oneself of the many positive contributions and fun Ina shares because of a word smells of the "race card" to me. Too much time on D's hands. I suggest taking a break from the world of cilantro and replacing it holding HIV positive infants and orphans.

      • GeorgieGirl says:

        It does smell like laundry soap – that was my impression the first time I tasted it. I've gotten used to it but it still does smack of – actually Ivory Soap. Have I offended an entire culture of white people? How ridiculous!

    • Anita says:

      Really, are you kidding me. There isn't anything you hate? I agree w/Ina – I hate cilantro :)

    • Honeybee says:

      Get over yourself MS…it's a figure of speech…

    • Squid says:

      I hate stupid opinions like this

    • Gayle says:

      Hey people, quit hatin' on the hater! Geez, can't she express her opinion??!

    • nancy says:

      You're like a critic, looking for something to pick at. She's passionate about her craft. I hate that you find something to complain about all the time. She's a kind person; quit picking.

  4. Susie says:

    I have been a fan of yours for many years (I first saw you on Martha Stewarts show and followed you after) and have been using your recipes on my family. My husband and I enjoy cooking together so I will print out recipes, do the shopping and when he gets home from work we will have a cocktail, talk about our day and start preparing our delicious meal. Thanks for many enjoyable evenings spent with good food, and wonderful conversation. My grown family especially enjoys your meatball recipe. I tweaked it a little to make it my own version, but the "meat" of the recipe is still yours :) Delicious!!! I hope for many years of recipes to come!! Again, thank you Ina.

  5. Tterry Nelms says:

    I love to watch you on the FN. I was wondering who plays your music it is very soothing and calming. This is one thing that made your show so easy to watch and learn from!!!! You are my favorite chief!!!

  6. TineLee says:

    So disappointed in Ina's answer just now to a viewer's question about how to substitute dried herbs for fresh. Ina seemed to forget when she sniffed at the thought of using dried herbs that not everyone can afford the cost of fresh. Instead of dismissing a legitimate question, she could have stated her preference for fresh–and why–but also provided a more helpful answer. And that answer would be that you typically use a 1-to-3, dry-to-fresh ratio for herbs. I always knew Ina was not "one of the people," but really, even Martha Stewart will accommodate questions from those less fortunate or less inclined to cook with premium everything.

  7. TineLee says:

    P.S. Forgot to say that I love Ina, but wish she would remember that her fan base is very diverse. Thanks.

  8. junella thomas says:

    HI Ina my name is junella i am 21 years old i am from st.lucia l've been watching your show for many years.I enjoy your cooking tips ,you and your cooking has inspire me
    I would love to be on your show it would mean so mach to me thank you so mach ina u can call me on this oooooooooo did i tell u i love cooking to 17587151186&17587216663

  9. Carol says:

    Ina is my favorite TV chef. I do have most of her cookbooks, and love trying her recipes. My husband's favorite is the coconut cake, and I recently made it for my book club, who all raved about it, too! Thank you, Ina, for your entertaining show and fabulous cookbooks. Now… if I only had a kitchen to cook in like yours … how great would that be???!!!

  10. laxl says:

    I love Ina! She is comfortable in her own skin, makes no apologies for her life and is AUTHENTIC. She is the real deal…. she doesn't kneel at the altar of celebrities, doesn't shill products for an extra buck, and is just a kind, decent non-judgmental person who happens to cook well. She is really someone to look up to, not just because of her cooking (I don't cook much of what she does cuz I'm a vegetarian) but because of the way she lives her life. She is just terrific. Wish I was friends with her.

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