Ina Garten – aka The Barefoot Contessa – is best known for her delicious comfort food recipes. For more than two decades, Garten has built a career as a best-selling cookbook author and the star of her own Food Network TV series. Amid the pandemic, Garten has become extremely popular on social media, where she frequently shares recipes for comfort food and cocktails.
She also enjoys dishing on her romance with her husband of more than 50 years, Jeffrey. Despite her overwhelming popularity, there are still quite a few things that fans might not know about the self-taught chef. Here are 10 things you may not know about Ina Garten.
10. Ina Garten met Jeffrey when she was 15
Ina and Jeffrey’s love story is one for the ages. They met on the campus of Dartmouth College when she was just 15 years old when Ina was visiting her older brother. Five years later, in 1968, they became husband and wife when he was 22 and she was 20. Jeffrey and Ina celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary in December 2020.
9. The Barefoot Contessa has her pilot’s license
According to Good Housekeeping, when Jeffrey was deployed during the Vietnam War, Ina found a unique way to keep herself busy. She took flying lessons and earned her pilot’s license!
8. Ina Garten used to work for the White House
Before she became the Barefoot Contessa, Garten worked in the White House Office of Management and Budget under Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Garten was a budget analyst, and one of her responsibilities was writing the nuclear energy budget.
“My job in Washington was intellectually exciting and stimulating, but it wasn’t me at all,” Garten told the New York Times in 1981.
During her time in Washington DC, Garten taught herself to cook using Julia Child’s cookbooks. She also became famous in her social circle for her amazing dinner parties.
7. She’s not the original Barefoot Contessa
Garten wasn’t happy working as a budget analyst, so in 1978 she decided to make a career change. After making some money flipping houses, she stumbled across a newspaper ad for a specialty food store that was for sale in the Hamptons.
Garten decided to make a lowball offer that she never thought would be accepted, but it was. That’s when she became the official owner of The Barefoot Contessa, even though she had never worked in a restaurant or store. The previous owner chose to name the shop after the 1954 movie The Barefoot Contessa starring Ava Gardner and Humprhy Bogart. Garten decided to keep it.
6. Ina Garten’s never seen herself on TV
Garten made her first TV appearance back in 1999 on The Today Show to promote her first cookbook. Not long after she landed her own Food Network show, but she says she’s never watched herself on TV.
“I couldn’t possibly. If I watched a show, I don’t think I’d ever do it again,” she once said.
5. The Barefoot Contessa is quite meticulous
Garten excelled in school, and she eventually earned her MBA from George Washington University. She’s always been good with science and numbers, and this has influenced her culinary career. Garten says that she precisely measures all of the ingredients in her recipes like they are a scientific equation.
Her go-to meal for dinner parties is rack of lamb and orzo with roasted veggies, served with whiskey sours. However, Garten says that if everything isn’t measured exactly, it won’t taste right.
4. Ina Garten has a room dedicated to her collection of cookbooks and cake stands
Garten’s fans are very familiar with her workshop and test kitchen known as “The Barn.” However, they might not know that she has one room in the Barn dedicated exclusively to her collection of cookbooks and cake stands.
Garten lined the room with shelves and displays her cookbooks on the bottom and her cake stands on top.
3. The Barefoot Contessa never expected to have a career
Garten told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2013 that she never thought about having a career when she was growing up.
“I grew up in a generation of women who didn’t expect to work. When I was in college I just assumed I’d get married and that would be my life. I was just at the cusp of women waking up and saying, ‘Wait a minute, I could actually have a great life. I can do whatever I want. I can stay home if I want to. I can work if I want to.’ And I got to do both.”
2. This store-bought ingredient isn’t ‘fine’
Garten is known for her popular line “store-bought is fine.” However, there’s one store-bought ingredient she says is not “fine” – grated Parmesan. She’s also not a fan of cilantro.
1. Ina Garten loves when fans approach her
The Barefoot Contessa doesn’t mind when fans approach her for a photo, autograph, or quick chat. In fact, it makes her happy.
“Oh, they’re all so lovely,” Garten told Time Magazine. “They all just want to say I taught them how to cook, which makes me really happy. Or people walk by and lean in and say, “I love you.” Who wouldn’t like that?”
The Barefoot Contessa airs Saturdays on the Food Network.