The 1 Thing ‘Barefoot Contessa’ Ina Garten Can’t Bear to Think About
When Ina Garten made the decision over forty years ago to leave her cushy job in Washington, DC to buy a store, it was an enormous risk. Even though she was a complete newbie as a business person and chef, she went for it.
All these years later, looking back on it, the Food Network star shared there is one part of the story that she tries not to think about.
Find out what that is, plus what taking that risk decades ago has meant for Garten today.
Garten’s pre-‘Contessa’ days
By now, everyone knows Garten worked in the White House during the Ford and Carter administrations. It’s pretty impressive to realize Garten got married before she could finish her college degree and that this didn’t deter her from pursuing some pretty great goals.
When she and her husband, Jeffrey, moved to Washington, DC, for his job in the State Department, she began taking business classes and landed a job in the White House. Even though she began as an entry-level government aide, Garten climbed her way up the ladder to the position of budget analyst working on nuclear energy policy.
What a lot of people don’t know is that Garten also, in her spare time, flipped houses.
“I loved doing it, so I didn’t find it stressful,” Garten told The Washingtonian in 2018. “I was working a lot, but it was something I did on my own time and I was also teaching myself how to cook. I think when you’re young, you do all that stuff.”
How Ina Garten’s life changed
Garten liked her White House job well enough but it “wasn’t me at all,” as she said in a 1981 New York Times article featuring her and other professionals who had changed careers. She had had her eye on a little upscale grocery store called “The Barefoot Contessa” – in New York – and wanted to buy it.
She talked it over with her husband, who encouraged her in her growing interest, and she bought it using the extra money she’d earned from house flipping.
”I was sitting at my desk in Washington trying to figure out what I was going to do when I grew up and I came across an ad for this business for sale in Westhampton,” she said. ”I drove up that weekend, looked it over and said I’d take it.”
And her life would never be the same.
The thought Garten can’t wrap her head around
What would be of Garten now if she hadn’t taken that risk all those years ago? We wouldn’t know about her impeccable taste and life. We wouldn’t be able to indulge in the escapism that takes place when we watch her create a meal for her close friends on the beach, or on her Hamptons deck, or just a special meal for Jeffrey.
It’s incredible that the celebrity chef was 51 when she was asked by Food Network to come and take her proper place in front of the camera – with absolutely no credentials as a chef. She just has “it.”
Epicurious asked the 71-year-old if she could imagine her life if she had not bought The Barefoot Contessa store, if she hadn’t taken that leap.
“I can’t even bear to think about it. .. To think how lucky I was that I saw that ad for a business for sale in a place I’d never been—the Hamptons—and I just took a chance.”
“I’d never even been here, and I had never had a business. I’d never had an employee. I’d never even been a waiter in a restaurant. I had never done any of it. And to think that I wouldn’t have done this—I can’t imagine. To say I’m lucky is an understatement.”