Barefoot Contessa: The 1 Night of the Week Ina Garten Refuses to Host — ‘The Meal Is Expected to Be Elaborate’

Ina Garten dinner parties, whether they’re seen on Barefoot Contessa or featured in the pages of one of her many Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, appear almost effortless. But, as fans of the celebrity chef probably know, she has entertaining tips and tricks to make the process easier. However, Garten draws the line at Saturday night dinner, which she doesn’t like to host. 

Ina Garten learned Saturday night dinner is the ‘hardest party to pull off successfully’

Ina Garten smiles as she raises a glass
Ina Garten | Mike Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Ever dreamed of attending Garten dinner parties? Chances are, if it were to happen, the Food Network star wouldn’t send out an invite for a Saturday night. 

She’d pick just about any other day of the week because, as she said in Martha Stewart Living, hosting Saturday night dinner is difficult. 

How did Garten dinner parties come to exclude Saturdays? Because of what the cooking show host learned running her Barefoot Contessa specialty food store

“I learned that the hardest party to pull off successfully is Saturday night dinner,” she said. “This meal is expected to be elaborate: appetizers, first course, dinner, dessert, and coffee.” 

“People arrive at 7:30 or 8 p.m. and stay for hours — definitely past my bedtime — and they all go home exhausted,” she added.

Additionally, what happens at dinner is expected. “Drinks are always in the living room, dinner is always in the dining room,” Garten said. “You always know exactly what to expect.” 

And Garten dinner parties, at least how the Barefoot Contessa plans and executes them, have an element of surprise. “I think a party is all about surprising your friends,” she said, noting she prefers to “entertain almost any time except Saturday night.”

The Barefoot Contessa loves entertaining on Sunday afternoons

Ina Garten smiles as she poses for cameras wearing a brown blazer
Ina Garten | Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Red

Hosting the Barefoot Contessa way means having people over on Sundays, the day Garten’s called the best time to entertain and her personal favorite. So why is Sunday afternoon her preferred time to have people over? 

“Everybody has finished their chores from Saturday,” she said before adding “they have lots of energy during the day.” 

And, unlike a Garten dinner party that might’ve been thrown the night before, it doesn’t last as long. 

“We hang out for a few hours at the kitchen table and then my friends are off to enjoy the rest of their day,” she said. Not only that but “all the food can be prepared in advance.”

Skip Garten dinner parties on Saturdays and serve a Barefoot Contessa lunch on Sunday 

Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager watch as Ina Garten does a cooking demonstration
Hoda Kotb, Ina Garten, and Jenna Bush Hager | Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Want to follow Garten’s advice and host a Sunday lunch instead of a Saturday night dinner? She’s got all the details planned out. 

“The best news about this kind of party is for the host,” she said. “Other than the soups and vinaigrette for the salad, everything else for this lunch is store-bought. I love to ‘assemble’ delicious ingredients and serve them without a lot of fussing.” 

Garten also included a step-by-step plan. First, she calls her friends on Friday to invite them to lunch. On Saturday morning she makes two different kinds of soup and a vinaigrette. 

The next day, she washes lettuce for a salad and arranges store-bought food on serving trays. Finally, she reheats the soup before guests arrive. 

“I have nothing to do after the doorbell rings except have fun with my friends,” she said. “Which is, after all, why I invited them!”

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