To up-and-coming generations, the name "Ina Garten" may not mean anything. But for people who are passionate about food, Ina is one of the most-watched celebrities when it comes to creating delicious dishes and sharing it with the world.
She keeps a low profile when she’s not filming her Food Network show Barefoot Contessa, but Ina has a more fascinating life than she’s let on. From her humble start as a star student to her relatively short stint as a White House aide, Ina never thought she’d become a household name. But with her hard work and a bit of luck, she happened to create a professional life that she seems to love. She cooks, writes, cooks some more, and travels.
With her husband Jeffrey by her side, Ina has lived a life full of food, family, fun, and warmth—and there’s still more to come from the author, chef, business owner, and wife. From what she likes to indulge in when she’s craving a treat to who her closest celebrity friends are, there’s a lot to know about this unassuming chef who made her big break partly thanks to her collaboration with industry great Martha Stewart. In fact, Ina credits Martha with making household arts a “thing”—getting people interested in cooking and doing things around the house—something she’s benefited from ever since.
Now, Ina’s become a foodie superstar in her own right—so move over, Martha. Fans want to find out everything there is to know about leading lady Ina Garten!
20 Kicked Out Of The Kitchen
You might've expected that due to the generation Ina grew up in, she would've been “stuck” in the kitchen throughout her girlhood. But actually, the opposite is true. Ina’s mom wanted her to focus on her classes instead of messing around in the kitchen, so she effectively kicked Ina out of the kitchen. The result was that Ina did focus on her studies, later getting into college thanks to her work ethic and academic abilities, but she never lost her passion for cooking. Of course, if she had been pushed into the kitchen like many women of her generation, she may have lost her interest in cooking altogether.
19 Mentored By Martha
While Ina got her start by goofing off in the kitchen on her own—with the help of a handful of cookbooks—she later had some significant help getting started in the cooking profession. Time reported that Martha and Ina first met when Ina was still running her store in East Hampton. At that time, Ina hadn’t yet published a cookbook or been on a cooking show. But Martha helped her get in touch with an editor when she was proposing a book, and Ina later catered benefit events for her mentor. That led to a partnership on-screen, too, something Ina has forever been grateful for.
18 Her BFF Is A Surprise
Ina is friends—and acquaintances—with plenty of celebrities. But she made headlines when she partnered up with Taylor Swift to film an episode of her show. The pair are off-screen buds, too, Ina told Huffington Post; she says that Tay is “wise beyond her years” and that she’s smart and interesting. The two talk “Boyfriends. Businesses. Friends. Life,” Ina says, calling Taylor “extraordinary.” Well, we already knew that—but it’s fascinating to see these two get along so well when they come from distinctly different parts of the entertainment industry. But then again, what did we expect from two very down-to-earth and friendly personalities?
17 Stay At Home Chef
Unlike other people who may have had big dreams of becoming professional chefs since childhood, Ina just credits her motivation to a passion for food and making recipes accessible to everyone. Unlike her friend Martha, Ina prefers things a bit simpler—it’s not so much about the presentation, she told Time, but instead, the simplicity of putting a meal together that still tastes good. And it started in Ina’s own kitchen when she moved to a new city with her husband, Jeffrey. Cooking was the housewife’s way of staying busy back then—and it definitely paid off later on.
16 International Lifestyle (& Cuisine)
Most foodies are passionate about more than just their home country’s cuisine, and the same is true for both Ina and her husband Jeffrey. While the couple maintains that the most “gourmet” thing Jeffrey makes is coffee—he likes to show guests how to prepare it “properly”—they both enjoy an international lifestyle and the cuisine that comes with it. They split their time between two states in the US and their home in Paris, making for some exciting jet-setting over the years as they commute for show tapings. But that’s part of what Ina loves about her job: she only spends a few days per week on her job and spends the rest doing other things she loves.
15 Some Recipes Don’t Quite Make The Cut
One of the main differences that Ina cites between the way she and mentor Martha Stewart cook is that both creating and presenting come naturally to Martha. In contrast, Ina told Time, cooking has always been hard for her. Rather than cooking coming easy, it’s always been something Ina has to work at, which she feels is a bit of a benefit as she understands how to approach writing her own recipes. But this also means she has to work hard at perfecting those recipes—and one she hasn’t quite managed to nail is Boston Cream Pie. She told Huffington Post that although she’s made plenty of tasty pies, she won’t put a Boston Cream Pie recipe in a cookbook until it’s perfect.
14 Not So Techie
Like many other people of her generation, Ina says she struggles with figuring out today’s technology. But that didn’t stop her from opening up her own social media accounts. And despite having a personal assistant who can help with practically everything, Ina maintains creative control over her IG account. While her assistant will remind her to post things—and give her ideas of what to share—Ina’s the one behind the posts, which is refreshing when we know plenty of celebs hand off their log-in info to a social media team and walk away. Then again, it means Ina’s IG is a bit sparse, but you can guarantee that when she does post something, it’s worthwhile to watch.
13 Shirking Fame For Family Time
While Ina is undoubtedly a busy lady, she makes sure that her schedule offers time for her to enjoy time with friends and family. She told Huffington Post that she’d rather have downtime than do “everything,” which may be one of the reasons why her relationship with her husband has people all over pointing to them as #couplegoals. After all, the pair has been married for 50 years, a milestone many never make it to. And Jeffrey is a big part of her professional life, too, even if his role is just to sample the dishes his wife whips up (and prep the coffee!).
12 Theme Song Courtesy Of Ina
Ina’s eclectic tastes have more to do with her show than just the recipes that are featured. She told Huffington Post that she inspired the theme song for Barefoot Contessa, sending the show’s writer/composer a selection of her favorite tunes. So while she didn’t specifically choose (or write) the theme song used on set, she pointed the writer in the correct direction to fit both her personality and her cooking habits. However, Ina notes that the soundtrack isn’t available for purchase—but you can find the CDs she loves on Amazon, including Café Del Mar, Bryan Ferry Taxi, and others.
11 No Scripts On Set
Like all the best “reality” (including cooking!) shows, Ina’s is not scripted. Which explains her tendency to repeat a few key catchphrases—like “How bad can that be?” and “How easy is that?”—on set. But she told Huffington Post that the off-the-cuff nature of the show makes it difficult to watch later. Of course, no one likes to see or hear themselves, right? But Ina says watching herself on set is uncomfortable because she realizes she’s either forgotten to say things that she wanted to or that she repeats things too much. Then again, we’re all our own worst critics, and her talkative nature clearly hasn’t put anyone off from enjoying Barefoot Contessa!
10 She’s Used To Saying No
Although some celebrity chefs go farther in their roles and start hosting competitions and other events, Ina’s just fine with keeping to herself and her cooking show. She admitted to Huffington Post that she prefers not to host events or run competitions and that she’s turned down a number of opportunities due to personal preference. Of course, she doesn’t quite have the right personality for roles like Gordon Ramsay’s, so we totally feel her on that decision. That said, it’s so fun to watch her cook with friends—including the famous ones—that we wish she’d branch out just a bit.
9 From Budget To Baking
Her first professional moves may have happened in the White House—where Ina was a low-level aide working in the budgeting department—that wasn’t to be Ina’s destiny. After finding success with her cooking show, her store, and plenty of cookbooks, Ina returned to Washington D.C. to reminisce. Oddly enough, no one could've predicted that Ina’s professional path would've brought her back to the White House in such a different capacity than she’d first worked in. After all, what former White House staffer can come back as a celebrated chef years after leaving a low-level job?
8 Not A Barefoot Contessa Fan
She’s famous for her cooking show of the same name these days, but when Ina first started out, she owned a shop called "Barefoot Contessa." But she bought the business with the name already set—and as of 2006, she told interviewers that she’d never seen the movie that apparently inspired the former owner. Of course, the movie doesn’t have a whole lot to do with food, as it focuses on the story of a fictional dancer in Spain. Although, given Ina’s passion for international cuisine (and travel), maybe it's about time she saw the film! Who knows? Maybe it’ll inspire some new recipes.
7 World Travel Dreams
Although Ina can go pretty much anywhere in the world she desires, she typically sticks between Paris and the contiguous United States. But one day, she hopes to venture as far as Antarctica. The chef told Huffington Post that she hopes to get there someday—but the “getting there” is the biggest challenge of all. After all, it’s a long trip, plus has some pretty intimidating environmental conditions. But we’re pretty sure she’ll manage to accomplish it one day, as her professional and personal life so far have both been pretty remarkable. And, if she does go to Antarctica, no doubt her husband Jeffrey will be by her side for it all.
6 Self-Taught By The Books
Plenty of professional chefs can say the same, but many fans don’t realize that Ina Garten never had formal training. However, her love of food started early, and by the time she was an adult, she was poring over every cookbook she could find and learned from the experts themselves. Of course, Julia Child was a huge inspiration to Ina, but she learned through trial and error, testing out recipes from all over. It’s impressive that Ina is entirely self-made, and it’s something many fans may not have realized given her fame (and her own show) on the Food Network today!
5 Button-Downs Over Chef Coats
If you’ve watched even a handful of episodes of Barefoot Contessa, you’ve probably noticed Ina’s fashion sense. Rather than dress in a chef coat or apron for her cooking appearances, Ina prefers to don a specific style of shirt when she’s on screen or on the clock. She chooses button-downs, she says, for her daytime work, changing into more casual wear at the end of the day. Which makes it tough for us to find photos of her in anything other than her casual button-downs. Of course, when it works, it works, and clearly, the casual shirts are suitable for this line of work—we never see any food stains on Ina after all!
4 She Doesn’t Grocery Shop
You might think that since Ina is an uber-foodie, she would live for going to the grocery store. Of course, we don’t mean your standard supermarket—we mean fancy urban markets or those akin to the Barefoot Contessa shop! But no—Ina doesn’t grocery shop, she says. She told Huffington Post that she prefers to send someone to do her shopping for her. But that doesn’t mean she never sets foot in the grocery store—she does visit occasionally, she notes, just to check out what’s on the shelves for reference. After all, it’s important to know what ingredients her show’s viewers can find at their local markets.
3 A Fan Of Anthony Bourdain
Though Ina Garten and Anthony Bourdain never had the pleasure of meeting in person, Ina told Huffington Post that she had a lot of respect for him. The critic had made negative comments about other chefs on the Food Network, the site explained, but he only had kind words for Ina. Similarly, Ina had nothing bad to say about Bourdain, either, telling the interviewer, “He was very curious. I really admired his enthusiasm.” She liked his approach to food, seeking it out in the most average of places, bringing culinary inspiration to people all over the world—and showcasing their culture, too.
2 Cooking By The Dozen
Most people pride themselves on completing one recipe out of a cookbook successfully. Ina, on the other hand, has actually penned twelve cookbooks of her own. And for every recipe that makes it into the pages of her cookbooks, she’s no doubt tested it out in her own kitchen—and plenty of other people’s, with the help of her staff—multiple times before settling on the final version. Although some critics have noted that Ina’s cookbooks “waste” space on full-color photos, she doesn’t seem to care—she continues presenting the recipes in an accessible and delicious-looking way in the pages of her books.
1 Major Foodie Fix
When asked what her guilty pleasure is, Ina responded to her Huffington Post interviewer that she didn’t really do “junk food”—but she did admit she often gets a hankering for Haagen-Dazs ice cream. Of course, she defends the choice by highlighting that it’s made with all real ingredients, even though she acknowledges it’s definitely “not so good for you.” Everything in moderation, right? Especially adult beverages, according to Ina, as she claims she’s never actually been drunk. Then again, most foodies know how to pair their wine and, likely, enjoy it without having to nurse a hangover the next morning, too.