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. tootielikescooking says:

    I love Ina and her show and her husband! I love her recipes and her easy explanations on how to do things. I do not understand, though, why she uses so much salt in nearly everything. I worry that she has or will soon have very high blood pressure, as salt is not a good thing for your health. Surely there are other seasonings to use that will also make the foods taste just as good as so much salt. Or–try eating the food the way it was made sometimes–without seasonings. Sometimes it is just as delicious. I wish Ina would occasionally do a recipe with a "non-salt" makeover for the thousands of us who cannot use salt very much.

  2. NIcole Doyle says:

    I love watching Ina and her husband, It is genuine, not faked for the show, you can tell by the way they look at one another. Her whole demeanor is classy, humble, yet confident in her ability, with a touch of sass!! I just love her!!

  3. Cheryl says:

    Ina I love to watch your show it brightens up my day. Everything I have cooked from your show or cookbooks has turned out great! Please keep cooking. Thanks.

  4. celeste jonas says:

    Ina, I absolutely adore everything about You, Your show and your Adorable husband. My husband who is not a cook at all also enjoys your shows and he especially enjoys when Jeffrey is grilling something :) I'm a huge fan and can't wait to see whats next!

  5. Sheila Haydel says:

    I just discovered Ina about a year ago and am so glad that I did…..just wish I would not have missed the previous years. You seem so down-to earth and you and Jeffrey are absolutely ADORABLE together! And of course love your recipes.

    • Teri says:

      I agree.Sheila, Ina is a Pleasure to watch.She is so natural . You can see the Love & Joy she gets by cooking. It's not an act. My husband & I love your receipes,their so naturaly good and easy to make. So
      homemade tasty.Thank you Ina.Have a wonderful Holiday.

  6. Susan Z. says:

    I think I've learned more tips and ideas from you and your show than anywhere else. Love your easy-going style. Especially keeping it simple! btw.. my dad thinks you're the most beautiful woman on TV!

  7. Judith Cox says:

    I love Ina. I wish you were my aunt and lived next door to me. Since I watch the show every day, my interest in food has blossomed like a large Kansas sunflower. The simple recipes are so delicious and easy to make. The holidays are great as there is always a new recipe that I want to make and share with my family.

  8. Dan says:

    If u are dying she will not grant you a wish http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/barefoot-cont

  9. Fran Hodges says:

    Happy New Year! One of my New Year's resolutions is to become more organized with all my family recipes. So many written on index cards and scraps of paper. Any suggestions? Are there any good sites for storing recipes? Create spreadsheets (excel/word, etc.). How do you keep up and store all your recipes?

  10. Rosemary says:

    When life gets crazy I sit down,kick off my shoes and watch Ina! I have seen all of her shoes often and never tire from her soothing voice and her wonderful recipes, I would love to spend an afternoon with her! See you in mass. In march for a book signing! I have the title for your next cookbook!!

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