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 (384)

  1. Bill Potocki says:

    Hi Ina, your show is my favorite cooking show. I could watch you all day. When your show starts I hear the uplifting music and I am ready to settle in and watch you cook. Your shows inspire me to cook, have fun, and I love your humor and cooking tips. In fact, I pre-record your show on our DVR and watch it the next day during lunch since your show comes on at 3 p.m. and often in the evening my partner and I will re-play your show in the evening when I find something that I think he'd enjoy. We own most of your cook books and yours are the first ones we turn to for a dependable recipe (we both love to cook). After watching your show on popovers we bought a popover pan and substituted white flour with whole wheat pastry flour (have to limit 'white foods'). I experimented with various fill levels–1/2, 2/3, 3/4 and found that 2/3 works best and the 2nd batch with the hotter pan rose highest. They were also tender and delicious especially with my partners homemade sugar free (Splenda) blueberry jam on top. We look forward to your next 'Barefoot Contessa' show.

  2. Genet says:

    Hi Ina,

    HAPPY THANKS GIVING DAY to you and to all your family.

    Keep up shining as you always do!

  3. Mary DeBenedetti says:

    I really enjoy your program and have made many dishes with success. I think I have seen every episode at least twice and some more. Will you be filming new episodes in 2014?

  4. Karen says:

    I love your show, Ina, and the recipes. I'm fascinated at the many ways you show hostess/host how to cook an eye-catching and sumptuous meal and still enjoy her/his own event in a relaxed manner! [BTW... I think you dress very tastefully.]

  5. Norma McDonald says:

    Ina is the best. Love her recipes and her presentations. I could listen to her for hours. Whoever produces her shows hit just the right note. Some cooking, some shopping, some friends for a meal, lovely table settings. She comes across as "real", a person who loves food, people, fun.

  6. kayla says:

    what is your favorite thing to cook?

  7. Jobie says:

    Her recipes are "to die for". She seems to be so down to earth. I love her recipes.
    Thank you.

  8. Mary Wallace says:

    Hi Ina, Adore your show and all of your cookbooks! I find myself searching for the perfect dish and can always count on finding it in one of your cookbooks. My husband gets a huge smile on his face whenever he sees me sitting down browsing through an "Ina book" because he knows he's in for a fab treat!

    I love the show and all your confidence builders with each recipe, "How easy is that?". You're awesome!

  9. Wanda says:

    Hi Ina, I have never wrote a note to a food celebrity before. i just had to tell you how we have
    enjoyed your Mexican chicken soup. We have made it three weeks straight and have given the
    recipe to others. We thank you for so many recipes. Wishing you and jeffey a Happy New Year and a Healthy one. God Bless.

  10. judy weinberger says:

    I love your show! I saw you in Philadelphia in November and loved your interview. Why did they move you to different times. I plan my whole day around you.

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