Why Ina Garten Says She Plans a Dinner Party Like a ‘Military Assault’

Barefoot Contessa star Ina Garten is considered the go-to advisor when hosting a gathering. Providing recipes that are simple yet wow-worthy, the Food Network star gets quite strategic when it comes to party planning.

'Barefoot Contessa' star Ina Garten smiles for cameras while cooking
‘Barefoot Contessa’ star Ina Garten | Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

‘Barefoot Contessa’ believes in the power of planning

When Garten preps a menu for any type of gathering, she emphasizes the importance of planning well in advance.

“I think the biggest thing that you can do, for any dinner, is to plan it really well,” Garten said in 2018, according to People. “I plan a party like I’m planning a military assault. A week before, I create the menu. Then I literally make a list of what day and time to cook everything.”

The Barefoot Contessa star believes in keeping things simple, which includes purchasing some pre-made items.

“I usually make a couple things and assemble everything else with really good store-bought ingredients,” she said. “I’m a big believer in buying things. Use the resources around you. If you know a food store that makes a fantastic potato gratin, start with that and build around it. I’ve been saying this for 20 years — your friends won’t have any more fun if you make everything yourself.”

RELATED: ‘Barefoot Contessa’ Ina Garten Posts Wedding Throwback Photo on 52nd Anniversary: ‘Still Having So Much Fun!’

Ina Garten gets cheesy at parties

Dinner parties often start out with some finger foods, where Garten offered a few hints on how to kick things off.

“Choose three to five cheeses,” the Food Network star recommended. “Always  have one that ­everybody will like — a Brie, for example — and a cheese that’s more out there. Not everyone will love a truffled pecorino, but it’s really special.”

Garten also noted that the host should present any type of cheesy temptation as already sampled, since most partygoers shy away from making the first cut.

“Don’t ever put out a piece of cheese that hasn’t been cut into,” she remarked. “If you serve a wheel of Brie and don’t start it, nobody will touch it!” 

Ina Garten’s husband doesn’t go for ‘fancy’

The culinary queen loves a well-dressed table, and suggested some simple accents to liven up the serving area.

“Start with something tall in the center, like a cluster of grapes, and then add things that flow out, so it has height and body,” Garten explained. “With fruits, I keep similar colors together. If you have apricots and figs all mixed together, it looks like a bowl of M&Ms.”

Married to husband Jeffrey for 52 years, Garten keeps her menu on the simple side due to her spouse’s lack of interest in upscale fare.

RELATED: ‘Barefoot Contessa’ Ina Garten Reveals Her Biggest Regret, and It Involves Her Husband

“I always make a menu with him in mind,” Garten said of her husband. “He’s so appreciative about the casual way that I entertain,” she says. “He wouldn’t like it if it was fancy.”

Garten recalled one of those earthy meals in their first years of marriage that didn’t come out as she had hoped, but they made it work.

“There was one (dish) I made very early on (in our marriage), that was like ground beef and corn that was just dreadful,” she admitted, as reported by Today.com. “But we couldn’t afford to make another meal, so we ate it and said it was delicious.”

Clearly, cooking is Garten’s love language and Jeffrey reaps the many benefits.

“I think the best way you can express love by cooking for someone is figure out what they like — not what you like, what they like — and make it for them,” she said. “And they’ll feel really good.”