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. Here are the highlights from her (packed) appearance at the New York City Wine & Food Festival‘s Grand Tasting event.

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 (325)

  1. karla says:

    jeffery and ina were divorced as of when ?

  2. Valerie says:

    Ina, I have enjoyed your show and ever since a severe bout of diverticulitis 3 years ago,it has almost been like therapy to watch shows like yours. I was wondering if you would have any input for me on something I am thinking about doing in retirement in 5 years and that is running a tea shop. I know that there is Restaurant Impossible and 3 Days to open with Bobby Flay but I can't seem to get in contact. I also remember that you did a show with all recipes for a tea party. I am currently a special education teacher and will have 30 years in 2018. I wanted to do some preliminary research on this idea so your input would be greatly appreciated. By the way, one of my favorites parts of your show is seeing the relationship that you aand your husband have. It reminds me of my husband and myself. Thanks Ina.

  3. Carol Herman says:

    Ina, what white wine do you use for cooking?

  4. kathy ryder says:

    When was she divorced?dhows still show Jeffery

  5. Sheila says:

    Your show is my favorite on the food network.

  6. Gail White says:

    My daughter and I are DEVOTED Ina fans! She says if she could have a wish granted, it would be to spend a day with you!_ I have six of your cookbooks, and she has more. Please publish a comprehensive Table of Contents! I have made one by copying each one. Your "book" could be loose leaf so that new sections could be added for each new cookbook! Then you fans could find recipes without going through every cookbook!_What kind of sheetpan do you use?

  7. Rowena Calton says:

    Dear Ina, I wan't to tell you something from my heart. I hope you receive this message. I love watching your show. It is my favorite program. The important message I want to share is not the fact that you are a wonderful cook, because you are a wonderful cook. I just feel the need to tell you I believe you are a nice, wonderful individual. You seem so genuine, so very real. I love this about you & the love you have for Jeffery & your friends. I admire you, Ina. We may never meet, but you;ll always be the good friend I've never met. You, Ina Garten, are my hero.
    Rowena Calton

  8. Amy Brand says:

    Ina you have been my favorite food network star since the very beginning. You are so real and genuine and I also have all of your cookbooks and use them constantly. I have probably made your corn chowder more than you have. Jeffrey is a very lucky man and you are an amazing cook. Thank you for teaching me and inspiring me. Not only to cook but to set my table and greet my guests. I hope you continue your show for many years to come.

  9. Joy C says:

    I just love anything Ina. Your no frills style is what makes me tune in every week. You make cooking something fancy so easy. And I love your house!! If I just had your kitchen….thanks for making it easier for all of us to be good cooks. You're the best Ina.

  10. Geri says:

    So thankful that Ina has remained true to her ways and not caved in to what other chefs, authors, etc. are doing these days. Her main focus is "the food and how it is to be prepared" . When Ina prepares something for her friends she always puts her heart and soul into it even if it is for TV. She is real! So thankful for her sharing knowledge of foods we eat everyday but with her twists it makes them extra special. You rock Ina. Wishing you good health and continued success. You do it right! .

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