Ina Garten’s First Book Deal Required a Big Risk: ‘It Was a Major Gamble’

Ina Garten is the author of many cookbooks and the host of a successful cooking show, Barefoot Contessa. After the Food Network star handed over the reins to her store of the same name, she entered the publishing world and released her first cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Here’s why Garten says this was a “major gamble.”

Ina Garten worked at a specialty foods store and the White House before Food Network

Ina Garten smiles while signing books
Ina Garten | Noam Galai/Getty Images for NYCWFF

Garten didn’t begin her career in the food industry. Before becoming a celebrity chef, she worked in the White House as a budget analyst during the Ford and Carter administrations. She focused on nuclear energy policy.

In 1978, Garten saw a newspaper ad for the sale of a specialty food store called Barefoot Contessa in the Hamptons in New York. “I went home, and I told Jeffrey about it,” says Garten during an interview with PBS. “And he said, pick something you love to do. If you love doing it, you’ll be really good at it.”

Garten took a chance and answered the ad. She says she gave a low offer, thinking there would be a negotiation. However, the previous owner called the next day and accepted her offer. Much to Garten’s surprise, she became the new owner.

Ina Garten says her first book deal was a big risk

Garten spoke with Food Network about her career journey. She says her first book deal was risky. This is because the publisher required her to buy half of the published books so that she could sell them in her specialty foods store, Barefoot Contessa. Consequently, she had to purchase 5,000 books.

“I wasn’t really thinking about how many books that was,” says Garten. “It was a major roll of the dice.”

Garten was nervous about whether her books would sell. However, she had nothing to worry about. The large book shipment was delivered to Garten’s store, but just three days later, someone called and told her she had to send all the books back right away. According to Food Network, the first batch of 5,000 copies and an additional 15,000 books ordered by the publisher sold out and they needed more copies.

Ina Garten doesn’t think she will ever stop writing cookbooks

 If you’re afraid Garten will stop writing cookbooks, have no fear. The Barefoot Contessa star loves writing cookbooks so much that she can’t see herself ever stopping. If things continue to go her way, she will write books for years to come.

“I just think it’s in my DNA,” says Garten in an interview with Epicurious. “When I get up in the morning, I think, what do I feel like doing today? Testing recipes is what I feel like doing. And I get to walk out of the house and next door to this big, open barn and just have a good time.”

“I just can’t believe I get to do this,” adds Garten. “After having had several careers first—as a nuclear energy policy wonk and running a specialty food store—this is as good as it gets.”

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