‘Barefoot Contessa’: The Real Reason Ina Garten Credits Her Entire Career to Her Husband Jeffrey

Barefoot Contessa star Ina Garten has hosted her Food Network show since 2003. And before that, Garten had a successful career as a specialty foods store owner. Garten has also written a dozen cookbooks, and through the years, she’s become a household name. But, surprisingly, Garten says she owes “it all” to her husband, Jeffrey.

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

Ina Garten almost never had a career in food

When Garten was younger, she didn’t cook often. She once revealed to Katie Couric in 2018 that she hadn’t been allowed to cook growing up because it could distract from her studies, and her parents wanted her to focus on school. “I’m kind of from the generation of women that didn’t grow up expecting to do something with their lives,” Garten said.

Eventually, Garten met her husband, Jeffrey Garten, and the two moved to Washington, D.C. Jeffrey, who had served in the military when the two were first married, worked within several presidential administrations before later taking a job on Wall Street. He is currently Dean Emeritus for Yale University’s School of Management, for which he served as dean from 1996-2005.

As for Garten, it wasn’t customary for women to work much when she and Jeffrey were married in the 1960s. But he’s the one who convinced her to pursue a career.

Ina Garten and her husband, Jeffrey, in Sagaponack, New York, in 2011 |
Ina Garten and her husband, Jeffrey, in Sagaponack, New York, in 2011 | Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images

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Ina Garten thanks her husband for her career

Garten recalled that, had it not been for her husband giving her the push she needed, she might have done nothing with her life.

“I hold it all to Jeffrey,” Garten said in her interview with Couric. “He came home one day, and I was watching TV, and he was like, ‘If you don’t do something, you’ll be really unhappy.’” Garten went on to take a job in the White House, working within the Office of Management and Budget. But it wasn’t enough.

At 30, Garten saw an ad for a specialty foods store for sale in East Hampton. She made an offer, and when it was accepted, she and Jeffrey relocated to start a new kind of life. “I remember after the first weekend, I said to Jeffrey, ‘This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.’”

Garten and her husband figured it out, though, and the store, Barefoot Contessa, ended up becoming a massive business, which led to Garten writing her first cookbooks and later to her Food Network show.

Ina Garten often features her husband on her Food Network show

Garten’s cooking show has become one of the most popular programs on Food Network — as well as one of the longest-running. And Garten takes every chance she can get to gush about her husband on the show. She often cooks for him, making some of his favorites such as her fried chicken sandwiches and her coffee chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches.

Garten also loves to celebrate Jeffrey, occasionally throwing get togethers for him as a congratulations or for a birthday. Though Jeffrey’s main job is only to make the coffee, Garten has said she’s completely OK with that.