Ina Rosenberg Garten, born February 2, 1948, is an American author, host of the Food Network program Barefoot Contessa, and former White House nuclear policy analyst. Known for designing recipes with an emphasis on fresh ingredients and time-saving tips, she has been noted by Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, and Patricia Wells for her cooking and home entertaining.
Garten had no formal training; she taught herself culinary techniques, with the aid of French and New England cookbooks. Later, she relied on intuition and feedback from customers and friends to refine her recipes. She was mentored chiefly by Eli Zabar, owner of Eli's Manhattan and Eli's Breads, and food-show host and author Martha Stewart. Among her dishes are cœur à la creme, 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.
Born Ina Rosenberg, in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Stamford, Connecticut, Garten was one of two children born to Charles H. Rosenberg, a surgeon specializing in otolaryngology, and his wife, Florence. Encouraged to excel in school, she showed an aptitude for science. She has said she uses that scientific mindset while experimenting with recipes.Garten's mother, an intellectual with an interest in opera, refused her daughter's requests to assist her in the kitchen and instead directed her to concentrate on schoolwork. Garten described her father as a lively individual with many friends, and has commented that she shares more characteristics with him than with her mother. At 15, she met her future husband, Jeffrey Garten, on a trip to visit her brother at Dartmouth College. After a year of exchanging letters, they began dating. After high school, she attended Syracuse University with plans to study fashion design, but chose to change her major to economics. Shortly thereafter, she postponed her educational pursuits to marry.
On December 22, 1968, Rosenberg and Garten 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 while her husband served his four-year military tour during the Vietnam War; she also acquired her pilot's license, according to an interview she gave to the Raleigh News & Observer. After her husband had completed his military service, the couple journeyed to Paris, France, for a four-month camping vacation that Garten has described as the birth of her love for French cuisine. During this trip, she experienced open-air markets, produce stands, and fresh cooking ingredients for the first time. On returning to the U.S., she began to cultivate her culinary abilities by studying the volumes of Julia Child's seminal cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Her weekly dinner party tradition began taking shape during this time, 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 and took business courses at George Washington University, eventually earning an MBA, while her husband worked in the State Department and completed his graduate studies. Originally employed as a low-level government aide, she climbed the political ladder to the Office of Management and Budget and 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 and the serious, high-power setting of Washington, Garten once again turned to cooking and entertaining in her free time, constantly arranging dinner parties and soirées at her home on the weekends. Meanwhile, she was buying, refurbishing, and reselling homes for profit ("flipping") 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 storeEdit
Garten left her government job in 1978 after spotting an ad for a 400-square-foot (37 m2) specialty food store in Westhampton, New York. The store was named Barefoot Contessa. "My job in Washington was intellectually exciting and stimulating but it wasn't me at all," she told The New York Times four years later. She made a hasty decision to purchase the store after traveling to view it, and moved to New York to assume ownership and management. 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, as it meshed well with her idea of an "elegant but earthy" lifestyle, but As of 2006 she had not seen the film.
Within a year, Garten had moved Barefoot Contessa across the street from its original location to a larger property. However, it soon outgrew this new location, and in 1985 she relocated the store to the newly vacated premises of gourmet shop Dean & DeLuca in the prosperous Long Island village of East Hampton. In contrast to Westhampton's beach season atmosphere, East Hampton is a year-round community and provided a larger, wealthier demographic as a customer base. At East Hampton, Garten expanded the store from its original 400 square feet (37 m2) to more than 3,000 square feet (280 m2), over seven times its original size. In this new, larger space, the store specialized in delicacies such as lobster Cobb salad, caviar, 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 of 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 owning and operating Barefoot Contessa, Garten again found herself seeking a change, and sold the store to two employees, Amy Forst and Parker Hodges, while retaining 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. Her website, Barefoot Contessa, became high-profile at this time as she began offering her coffees and a few other items for purchase online.
By 2003, Barefoot Contessa had became such a landmark gathering place for the affluent New York town that director Nancy Meyers chose to use the store as one of the settings for the Jack Nicholson-Diane Keaton film Something's Gotta Give. However, the store was permanently closed in 2004, when the lease expired on the property and negotiations failed between Garten (the owner of the building in which Barefoot Contessa was housed) and the new owners. It has been reported that Garten's refusal to meet lease negotiations was actually a tactic for reclaiming control of the store after Forst and Hodges lost business to competitor Citarella. Ultimately, Garten did not reopen the shop, and instead retained the property for potential new tenants.
Barefoot Contessa cookbooksEdit
Barefoot Contessa Cookbook Barefoot Contessa Parties!
Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home (2004)
Barefoot Contessa at Home: Everyday Recipes You'll Make Over and Over Again (2006)
Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics (2008)
Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That? (2010)
Barefoot Contessa Foolproof(2012)
Barefoot Contessa on Food NetworkEdit
Celebrity chefs and television cooking shows had begun to rise in popularity since 1997, driven in part by the high-profile success of Emeril Lagasse and his Emeril Live. Around this time, Food Network began capitalizing on the renewed interest in gourmet foods and cooking, and extended its reach with new shows and tie-in products. Martha Stewart also launched her television shows and accompanying magazines, cookbooks, and product lines. Periodicals such as Gourmet and Bon Appétit saw a dramatic increase in subscriptions at this time. In this wave of renewed food appreciation, Garten quietly established herself with her cookbooks and appearances on Stewart's show, and then moved into the forefront in 2002 with the debut of her Food Network program.
After the success of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and Barefoot Contessa Parties!, Garten was approached by Food Network with an offer to host her own television cooking show. She rejected this proposal several times, until the London-based production company responsible for the popular Nigella Bites was assigned to the deal. She acquiesced to a 13-show season, and Barefoot Contessa premiered in 2002 to a positive reception. The program focuses on hearty, guest-oriented food, and Food Network found a popular hostess in the "calm, Rubenesque" Garten. The press began comparing her television presence to that of her mentor, Martha Stewart, but with a softer edge and more nurturing, comforting manner. Her show features her husband and their actual friends and generally only hosts celebrities that are her friends. Barefoot Contessa has approximately 1 million viewers tuned in per episode, and has posted some of Food Network's highest ratings.
When Martha Stewart was incarcerated in 2004 on charges connected with obstruction of justice in a stock trading case, the press singled out Garten as a possible successor.
In 2005, the show was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award in the category of Best Service Show. In 2009, the show and Garten were once again 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. She has also been approached several times to develop her own magazine, line of furniture, set of cookware, and chain of boutiques (reminiscent of Stewart's Omnimedia), but has declined these offers, stating she has no interest in further complicating her life. Between 2004 and 2005, Barefoot in Paris sold almost 400,000 copies and rose to number eleven on the New York Times bestseller list.
Appetizers & SidesEdit
Don't forget to check out Ina's recipe page!