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. Denise says:

    Ina why is it that when you use lemons you don't use a juicer that doesn't allow the seeds on your food. I would hate to bite into a lemon seed and I'm sure your guests would too! They have lemon presses now a days I'm sure you must know that!

  2. I'mAlwaysBarefoot says:

    Ina just rocks my world! What can I say? Soothing manner….soothing voice. I could watch her roast an old boot. I wish she'd make a new show every day. And to whoever does the music on the show….you are awesome!!!

    • Saundra says:

      I've been meaning to comment on the music. Love it, and totally agree with your feelings about INA! Should also mention I'm totally "crushing" on Jeffrey!

  3. judy says:

    I watch your show everyday. I made the blueberry crumb cake. Great!

  4. Guest says:

    Ina, I enjoy your recipes and those I have tried turn out delicious. But there are two things that bother me. Why isn't your wardrobe more versatile and stylish…or at least more colorful? You cook and then go to a party at either your own house or the home of someone else in the same outfit! Others are dressed nice and you have on a drab black shirt. And that cackling laugh grates on my nerves. Otherwise, I agree that the show is not diverse enough either.

    • LoveToCook says:

      Not to disrespect anyone, but it is really no one's business Ina's or anyone else's choice of wardrobe pieces as long as it is neat, clean and tasteful. And it has no relevancy to her cooking or her shows. I wear black all the time. I occasionally accessorize with a colorful scarf. I have met another individual who dresses the same way, and we have our personal reasons for doing so. And, frankly, her laugh is not annoying. I see a lot of Ina in myself. I get her. Perhaps watching her is not for you. Her cookbooks are great. Just saying…

    • Barbara says:

      OMG – you need to get a life and quit being a snob!! Who the hell do you think you are you to criticize – if it bothers you – do Ina a favor and quit watching her show.

    • A fan says:

      I think Ina is one classy lady and so very accomplished.

    • Frances says:

      Ina Garten is a delight to watch; I love her tittle of laughter, I have a cousin whom I love that has the same nervous laugh when surrounded by family or friends. And as far as her black shirt: I think of it as her signature. And I might add, I've looked all over to find a few just like it for myself! There is a dear honesty, sweetness and 'real' person in Ina that comes across. She has lots of style and grace. It's a pity crassness rolls off of what is called a 'guest.' To quote a bit of Ina: How ironic is that!

    • Pam says:

      Really…….get a life. I notice you criticize but didn't have the courage to add your name. If your opinions are detrimental than keep them to yourself. And you might try acting like an adult.

    • Cindy says:

      I think Ina is genuine and down to Earth and what she wears is Ina. She doesn't have to wear stylish clothing to be who she is. This is what I truly love about her and many others as well. She stands out with her heart warming soul. I see a glow about her that shines above the rest. Her laughter is beautiful and is who she is why would you want to put on a fake laugh or fake dress this only makes you a fake person. Maybe you need to learn from Ina and find out who you really are fake or not fake. Then and only then maybe you'll be a truly happy person……..

    • Kim McGinnis says:

      Not sure why I am wasting a moment of my life to reply to this insult….Ina is a very beautiful lady and I enjoy her show – could watch her all day – relaxing, informative and the best recipes ever and I am a recipe cook. Beautiful uncomplicated yet delicious! Also I too love when her husband joins her for "tasting" you can see the love shared – exactly the same I share with my sweetheart. You are much admired for your beauty and talent Ina. Thanks for the joy

    • Cindy says:

      Guest – What an ignorant buffoon you are. Ina is awesome EXACTLY the way she is and in what she wears. She's a chef – don't a fashion mogul – I think they have shows for what you're looking for on Bravo. Ina's recipes are the ones you can cook for the very first time for your boss or special date. You never have to worry they won't turn out delicious. And that is why she's so well respected.

    • Sheila says:

      I totally agree with you. I have often wondered the same thing many time.. why the same type of clothes all the time?? I know Ina is a little plump, but she could easily afford a seamstress to make her special clothing. Why would she wear the same type and color of shirt all the time?? There are so many styles that would look great on her…she is very cute and I love her hair and complexion! I also get annoyed with her "nervous" laugh. I have been around other people who nervously laugh at EVERYTHING…. it is a nervous habit I am pretty sure, but it does get annoying. NOT everything is funny.. so it is a nervous habit I am pretty sure… Of course none of this takes away from her show… but just asking why to these observations!!

      • susan claiborne says:

        I totally agree with you too. You don't cook the same recipes every show, so why not change up the wardrobe a little. She is a beautiful lady. Maybe she thinks a new blouse would distract from the cooking element of the show. Those of us who can't wait for the show to come on every week would love to see her in different clothes.

    • Rachael says:

      How rude. I hope Ina never actually reads this post as it is so insulting. That's all.

    • dountoothers says:

      You really shouldn't be so bothered by these unrelated things, they have nothing to do with cooking, you should try to focus your attention on more uplifting ideas and not be so critical. How about Focusing on perfecting yourself instead of others?

    • Marty Blank says:

      I think that was a terrible to say such awful things of a gracious lady that you don't even know!! Didn't you ever learn "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. A watcher and (I hope) a friend in Florida. Marty

    • Sarie says:

      I find you comments a little disturbing. First of all, her laugh is not a cackle…and if you're so neurotically sensitive that you can't handle someone's laugh, then perhaps it would be better for you to refrain from watching her show. It's also interesting that you mention her wardrobe….if you had done any research on this incredibly intelligent woman (her husband is right up there intellectually too), you would already know that after high school, she attended Syracuse University with plans to study fashion design, but chose to change her major to economics. So she evidently knows more about fashion than you assumed. Has it ever occurred to you that not everyone needs to be flashy and "out there", wearing glitzy, over the top clothes with tons of jewelry, etc.? The clothes she wears are very refined and very well made. Her choice of wardrobe doesn't seem to keep any of her friends from socializing with her….perhaps that why you would probably never be her friend…. In any case, both of your negative remarks were shallow and uncalled for!

    • guest says:

      Ina seems to be a very nice and genuine person. What does it matter what she wears? I am sure that her clothes are not cheap and are not dirty when she goes out. As far as her laugh, it sounds like you should just not watch the show any longer. Maybe that would make you happy..

    • Rosalyn Lark says:

      I kind of agree about the clothes and laugh, but I watch anyway. I believe the clothes are about her being tad overweight and trying to hide the lumps and bumps. The laugh, well I could do without but that's her personality.

    • Linda Sedberry says:

      Love, me some Ina! She could cook in a gunny sack and I would never notice. She's my sister I've never met.
      when my husband had his bone marrow transplant in 09 and we had to stay isolated for almost a year, we enjoyed her smiling face and gentleness every day, plus we honed our cooking skills every day. I learned so many things from her easy manner of teaching. We enjoy those techniques still today. Yes, he's doing fantastic after 5 years. Thank you Ina for being the kind soul you are. You are loved. Linda Sedberry

  5. Barbara Volatile says:

    She's a Sweetheart! I Love her Show, her way of cooking and her recipes. I have been a home cook for 50 yrs. I was born and raised in Rhode Island ( the Best restaurants in the USA ) and have had my own successful Catering business, so I KNOW good food :)

  6. Janet Orgeron says:

    Love your show Mrs. Garten. I own all of your books, best cookbooks published, I should know, collecting good cookbooks is a hobby for my mother and I. We read cookbooks like most read novels, cover to cover! I am from South Louisiana which has a food culture uniquely ours but your receipts fit in perfectly!
    Please don't listen to the negative comments you are a beautiful classy lady who generously shares her gifts with others!! Sure you're not Southern? Lol

  7. Diane says:

    Good Morning from Reno!
    I just want you to know that you're my favorite Food Network Chef….Love the show and often use your receipes! Even have my husband watching and he's requesting dishes he's seen you make. Wish you many years of FN and only wish you were on more….even with reruns!
    Thanks for the awsome dishes!
    Doing any booksignings near Reno?

  8. jane white says:

    I was not mature enough to really know I should listen and watch my mother cook, so long standing spices , dishes were lost, but now I have been watching this show for years! I am so blessed to find this wonderful women, chef and al around great chef and this is an understatement! I am now buying the spices and herbs she uses for her dishes!

    I made one some of her dishes slowly , this night I made the bake chicken that makes someone ask your hand in marriage! Well I wanted to ask myself and my twin lol made it as if I were Ina she looked into my eyes with shock and great promise of a dish well made, everything came out so delicious so mmm good I am totally shocked! No I knew it would be good but I did not know I could make it work, thanks so Ina, next the coconut cake!

    Ina I am now a great cook and I tape each and everyone of your shows, and I never delete one it is for me to go back and do it again :0)

    jane white

  9. Tina says:

    Hi Ina,
    Please help. I respect the fact that you do not endorse name brands, however, would you point me in the right direction?
    I would like to replace my dishes and flatware with a good quality white everyday china that will not get grey scratches from flatware. What should I look for? Is the problem the china or the flatware?
    Thank you,
    Tina

    • tricia says:

      try crate & barrel white dishes…they take alot of abuse but always look great… the plates are not expensive…but go online at the crate and barrel outlet store and you will find the dishes at a great price..hope this helps

  10. I really like your posts. I have shared this lilnk on the forum

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