Ina Garten – Barefoot Contessa

Ina Rosenberg Garten, 78, born February 2, 1948 is an American author, host of the Food Network program Barefoot Contessa, and a former staff member of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Garten’s mother in law bought her a subscription for Time Life cookbooks series and influenced her. Later, she relied on intuition and feedback from friends and customers to refine her recipes. She was primarily mentored by Eli Zabar (owner of Eli’s Manhattan and Eli’s Breads) and food connoisseur Martha Stewart. Among her dishes are cœur à la crème, celery root remoulade, pear clafouti, and a simplified version of beef bourguignon. Her culinary career began with her gourmet food store, Barefoot Contessa; Garten then expanded her activities to several best-selling cookbooks, magazine columns, self-branded convenience products, and a popular Food Network television show.



On December 22, 1968, Jeffrey and Ina were married in Stamford and soon relocated to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She began to dabble in cooking and entertaining in an effort to occupy her time; Jeffrey served a four-year military tour during the Vietnam War. She also acquired her pilot’s certificate. After her husband had completed his military service, the couple journeyed to ParisFrance, for a four-month camping vacation; the trip sparked her love for French cuisine. During this trip, she was introduced to open-air markets, produce stands, and fresh cooking ingredients. Upon returning to the U.S., she began to cultivate her culinary abilities by studying the volumes of Julia Child‘s influential cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. During this time, weekly dinner parties turned to tradition, and she refined her home entertaining skills when she and her husband moved to Washington, D.C. in 1972.

In Washington, Garten worked in the White House while earning an MBA at George Washington University; Jeffrey worked in the State Department, completing his graduate studies. Garten was originally employed as a low-level government aide and climbed the political ladder to the Office of Management and Budget. Eventually she was assigned the position of budget analyst, which entailed writing the nuclear energy budget and policy papers on nuclear centrifuge plants for presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Strained by the pressures of her work, Garten again turned to entertaining while also flipping homes for profit in the Dupont Circle and Kalorama neighborhoods, The profits from these sales gave Garten the means to make her next purchase, the Barefoot Contessa specialty food store.

Barefoot Contessa store

Garten left her government job in 1978 after spotting an ad for a 400-square-foot specialty food store called Barefoot Contessa in Westhampton Beach, New York. “My job in Washington was intellectually exciting and stimulating but it wasn’t me at all,” she explained four years later. After traveling to view it, she made a hasty decision to purchase the store and moved to New York to assume ownership. The store had been named by its original owner in tribute to the 1954 film starring Ava Gardner. Garten kept the name when she took over; it meshed well with her idea of an “elegant but earthy” lifestyle.

Garten expanded the store over seven times its original size, from its original 400 square feet to more than 3,000 square feet. In this new, larger space, the store specialized in delicacies such as lobster Cobb saladcaviar, imported cheeses, and locally grown produce. While doing much of the cooking herself, Garten also employed local chefs and bakers as the business grew, including Anna Pump (who later established the Loaves & Fishes bakery and Bridgehampton Inn). Garten has credited Eli Zabar with the inspiration for her main cooking method, in which “all you have to do is cook to enhance the ingredients.” The shop was praised in the press by celebrity clientele such as Steven Spielberg and Lauren Bacall. In 1996, after two decades of operating Barefoot Contessa, Garten again found herself seeking a change; she sold the store to two employees, Amy Forst and Parker Hodges, but retained ownership of the building itself. Unsure of what career step to take after selling the store, she took a six-month sabbatical from the culinary scene and built offices above the shop. There, she studied the stock market and attempted to sketch out plans for potential business ventures. At this time, her website, Barefoot Contessa, became high-profile as she began offering her coffees and a few other items for purchase online.

By 2003, Barefoot Contessa had become a landmark gathering place for East Hampton; director Nancy Meyers even chose the store as one of the sets for the Jack NicholsonDiane Keaton film Something’s Gotta Give. The store was permanently closed in 2004.

Barefoot Contessa cookbooks

In 1999, Garten reemerged with her attention turned to publishing. She carried on the Barefoot Contessa name in her 1999 sleeper bestseller, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. The book far exceeded both Garten’s and publisher Clarkson Potter’s expectations, containing the recipes that made her store successful. Garten eventually sold over 100,000 copies in the first year immediately requiring second and third print runs after the initial pressing of 35,000 cookbooks were claimed. In 2001, she capitalized on her new-found fame and released Barefoot Contessa Parties! Both were nominated for 2000 and 2002 James Beard Awards in the Entertaining & Special Occasion Cookbooks category. Parties! was a surprise entry—Garten was perceived as too inexperienced to compete with nominees such as French chef Jacques Pépin and international wine expert Brian St. Pierre.

Her cookbooks are modeled after coffee table books to avoid an encyclopedic format. With many color photographs, including a full-page picture facing each recipe.  In 2005, fellow chef Giada De Laurentiis named Garten one of her favorite authors. As of 2008, Garten’s cookbooks have sold over six million copies combined. As of October 2018 she had published eleven cookbooks. Her most recent cookbook, titled Modern Comfort Food, was released on October 6, 2020.

Barefoot Contessa on Food Network

Garten established herself with her cookbooks and appearances on Martha Stewart‘s show, and then moved into the forefront in 2002 with the debut of her Food Network program.  Barefoot Contessa premiered in 2002 to a positive reception. Her show features her husband and their friends and generally only hosts celebrities who are her friends. Barefoot Contessa has approximately one million viewers tuned in per episode and has posted some of Food Network’s highest ratings. In 2009, the show and Garten were nominated for Daytime Emmy Awards in the categories of Best Culinary Program and Best Culinary Host, and Garten won her first Emmy in the latter category. That same year, Garten announced that she had signed a three-year contract with Food Network to continue her cooking show, and will release two more cookbooks following Barefoot Contessa at Home. Garten was reportedly awarded the most lucrative contract for a culinary author to date, signing a multimillion-dollar deal for multiple books. Between 2004 and 2005, Barefoot in Paris sold almost 400,000 copies and rose to number eleven on the New York Times bestseller list.

Barefoot Contessa Pantry

In 2006, Garten launched her own line of packaged cake mixes, marinades, sauces, and preserves, branded as Barefoot Contessa Pantry, with her business partner Frank Newbold  and in conjunction with Stonewall Kitchen. These convenience foods are based on her most popular from-scratch recipes, such as coconut cupcakes, maple oatmeal scones, mango chutney, and lemon curd. Pricing of these items is comparatively expensive (for example, the suggested retail price for a single box of brownie mix is ten dollars), and they are only sold through upscale cookware and gourmet shops such as Crate & BarrelSur La Table, and Chicago’s Fox & Obel Market Cafe. She plans to expand this brand in the future.  Her net worth is estimated at $60 million.


Ina Garten’s Easter Virginia Baked Ham

1 (14-16 pound) fully cooked, spiral-cut smoked ham
5 garlic cloves
8 ½ ounces mango chutney
½ cup Dijon mustard
1 cup light brown sugar, packed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the ham in a heavy roasting pan. Mince the garlic in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the chutney, mustard, brown sugar, orange zest, and orange juice and process until smooth. Pour the glaze over the ham and bake for 1 hour, until the ham is fully heated and the glaze is well browned. Serve hot or at room temperature

Ina Garten’s Irish Scones

4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar, plus additional for sprinkling

2 tablespoons baking powder

4 teaspoons kosher salt

3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced

4 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup cold heavy cream

3/4 cup dried currants

1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water or milk, for egg wash

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 4 cups of flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, the baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and mix on the lowest speed until the butter is the size of peas.  Beat together the eggs and heavy cream and, with the mixer on low, quickly add them to the flour-and-butter mixture, combining just until blended. Toss the currants with 1 tablespoon flour, add them to the dough, and mix quickly to distribute the currants through the dough. The dough may be a quite sticky

Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead quickly to be sure it is well combined. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. You should see lumps of butter in the dough. Cut into circles with a 3-inch plain round cutter and place the circles on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

Brush the tops of the dough with egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked. Serve warm with clotted cream and jam.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.