Barefoot Contessa: 3 ‘Important’ Party Hosting Tips Ina Garten Learned Running Her Own Store

Celebrity chef and cookbook author Ina Garten is known for making entertaining easier. Her tips and tricks are, at least in part, thanks to what she learned owning a specialty food store. Garten’s Barefoot Contessa store, a Hamptons staple for many decades, closed for good in 2003. But the Food Network star still utilizes three valuable entertaining lessons she learned from running it.

1. Ina Garten learned to cook simple food at Barefoot Contessa

Ina Garten looks on holding a spoon while cooking Barefoot Contessa dishes wearing a blue shirt.
Ina Garten | Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Most, if not all, of Garten’s Barefoot Contessa recipes are simple. Why? Partly because the 73-year-old doesn’t consider herself a very good cook but also because of what she learned running Barefoot Contessa. 

“Having a food store taught me three important things about giving parties,” she wrote in a Martha Stewart column. “First, I learned how to make delicious food very simply.

“If we spent all day making rosemary roast leg of lamb, we wouldn’t have anything to sell! So I’ve taught myself how to use good, fresh ingredients and to prepare them as simply as possible by cooking only to enhance their intrinsic flavors,” she explained. 

2. The Food Network star also learned the importance of making food ahead

an exterior view of Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa store
Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa store | Matthew Peyton/Getty Images

Another hallmark of Barefoot Contessa cooking is making food in advance. One of Garten’s many cookbooks, Make It Ahead, is filled with recipes that can be prepared ahead of time. Once again, it goes back to what Garten learned at her store. 

“The second thing I learned is how to make dishes that can be prepared in advance. Lemon pound cake is not only OK to make a day ahead, it actually gets better as the flavors develop overnight,” she said. 

“All I have to do the day of the party is arrange it on a beautiful plate with fresh raspberries, she added. “What could be easier than that?”

3. Garten learned she doesn’t like to host Saturday night dinner

The Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, smiles as she stands behind a bar mixing cocktails.
Ina Garten | Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Lastly, Garten’s Barefoot Contessa store taught her to avoid having a get-together on a Saturday night. Why? Because, as the longtime Barefoot Contessa host said, “the hardest party to pull off successfully is Saturday night dinner.”

She continued, saying, “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.”

Not only that but “you always know exactly what to expect,” she added, noting that drinks are served in the living room and dinner is in the dining room. Garten’s aim with any party is “surprising your friends,” which is why she likes entertaining “almost any time except Saturday night.” Her preferred time to host is Sunday afternoon because of the relaxed atmosphere. 

“Everybody has finished their chores from Saturday, they have lots of energy during the day, we hang out for a few hours at the kitchen table, and then my friends are off to enjoy the rest of their day,” Garten said. “And all the food can be prepared in advance.”

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