‘Barefoot Contessa’: Ina Garten Revealed Her Biggest Secret to Keeping Her Recipes Simple

Ina Garten has been the star of Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa since 2003. The celebrity chef has written plenty of cookbooks and used her cooking skill to bring easier versions of classic recipes to her viewers.

Garten’s fans range from novice cooks to professional chefs, but she has one big secret to keeping those recipes as simple as possible.

'Barefoot Contessa' star Ina Garten with her husband, Jeffrey Garten in 2012
‘Barefoot Contessa’ star Ina Garten with her husband, Jeffrey Garten in 2012 | Jim Spellman/WireImage

Ina Garten loves telling her fans to use store-bought ingredients

Garten didn’t set out on the path to become a celebrity chef. Rather, the now 73-year-old pursued her MBA down in Washington, D.C. after college, and she went on to work in the White House. However, after making an offer on a small specialty foods store in East Hampton in 1978, Garten’s culinary path began.

These days, she spends time in her kitchen creating simple recipes for her fans to enjoy. Garten doesn’t like the complexity that can come with cooking and often tells her fans that store-bought ingredients, such as puff pastry and tomato sauce, are perfectly fine — and can save plenty of time in the kitchen. Garten also prefers store-bought pasta and mayonnaise versus making her own, among other ingredients.

Ina Garten cooks on TODAY in 2013
Ina Garten cooks on TODAY in 2013 | Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire

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Ina Garten has one big secret to creating easy recipes

When it comes to developing her recipes, Garten has one way of making sure she stays in the mind of her consumer: She receives no professional culinary training. Prior to purchasing her specialty foods store, Garten said she had never worked in any kind of culinary setting before. “I cooked at home,” Garten revealed in a PBS interview. “I taught myself how to cook when I worked in Washington, using Julia Child’s cookbooks.” Not having the professional training means Garten essentially creates recipes from the point of view of an amateur cook.

“What is my lack, is actually exactly right because I can connect with [my audience]. Cooking is hard for me,” she said. “That’s why my recipes are really simple. Because I want to be able to do them.”

Garten has often provided tips and tricks to her viewers in terms of how to simplify dishes that are known to be more complex. She has an easy method for poaching eggs and even makes her hollandaise in a blender. Plus, she’s perfected a notoriously complex soufflé recipe.

Ina Garten also loves creating an easy cocktail — or two  

Garten loves to cook, but she’s a big fan of creating her own cocktails, too. In fact, she’s said in the past that the best cocktails are those that are homemade — such as her classic whiskey sour recipe. Garten also went viral last spring for her video of a massive Cosmopolitan, and while there was certainly humor in it, the recipe was true and simple.

Garten once guest-starred on Late Night with Seth Meyers, where she and Meyers created several of her cocktails, including her Duke’s Cosmopolitan and Mai Tai drinks.