‘Barefoot Contessa’: Ina Garten Once Had 1 Major Revelation About Her Food Network Fans

Ina Garten has been the star of Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa for nearly two decades. The show premiered back in 2003, and 18 years later, Garten is still filming new episodes. Garten was hesitant to film a cooking show at first, but she has since realized something surprising about her Food Network fans.

Ina Garten of 'Barefoot Contessa'
Ina Garten of ‘Barefoot Contessa’ | Mike Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

‘Barefoot Contessa’ star Ina Garten refused to do a cooking show at first

Garten was never expecting the rise to fame that she experienced in the early 2000s. Back in 1978, Garten left her job in Washington, D.C., and moved to the Hamptons, where she had just purchased a small specialty foods store. With her husband’s support and her own business and budgeting skills, Garten took the store to new levels, eventually opening up a bigger space. In 1999, Garten wrote her first cookbook, and within a few years, Food Network desperately wanted to sign her on for a cooking show. But Garten refused.

“I just said no, over and over and over again,” Garten once revealed in an interview with PBS in 2017. She said she didn’t think she’d be any good on TV. However, Food Network “kept coming back,” so Garten agreed to do one 13-episode series. “15 years later, I’m still doing it.

'Barefoot Contessa' star Ina Garten speaks at the 2019 New Yorker Festival
‘Barefoot Contessa’ star Ina Garten speaks at the 2019 New Yorker Festival | Brad Barket/Getty Images for The New Yorker

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Ina Garten had 1 major revelation about the fans who watch her show

Though Garten was hesitant to take on a TV show, she’s certainly glad she did. The show instantly became a Food Network hit, and Garten revealed the moment she had a revelation about what kind of people her fans — both cookbook and television fans — actually were.

“I was walking up Madison Avenue, and there was a woman in a big fur coat, and she said, ‘Oh darling, love your cookbooks,’” Garten said. “About a half a block later, a truck driver pulled over and said, ‘Hey baby, love your show!’”

Garten realized at that time that her fans didn’t have any set gender, age, or location, or interests — they could be anyone. “They’re people that are interested in food — and that’s everyone,” Garten said. Garten’s cookbooks and her TV series are meant to create simple recipes using kitchen tools that most people have at home. She also said that her lack of professional training helps her relate better to her audience in terms of creating recipes.

Ina Garten’s cookbooks are the biggest reason she ever made it onto the television

Before Garten was a massive television star, she was the owner of a specialty foods store called Barefoot Contessa. But in between those two things, she became a cookbook author — and that’s what actually led her to finding so much success.

Garten published her first cookbook in 1999, and she has since published a dozen different recipe books featuring her favorite dishes and cocktails. Garten published her 12th book in October 2020, and she noted in a separate interview that she kept it geared toward comfort foods as a way for people to de-stress about the upcoming election.