Garten at a book signing in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 2006
February 2, 1948 (age 67)
Brooklyn, New York
George Washington University
|Spouse(s)||Jeffrey Garten (1968–present)|
Ina Rosenberg Garten (// EYE-nə; born February 2, 1948) is an American author and host of the Food Network program Barefoot Contessa, and a former staff member of the White House Office of Management and Budget. 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 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.
Born Ina Rosenberg to a Jewish family 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 high school, she attended Syracuse University but 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. 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 store
Garten left her government job in 1978 after spotting an ad for a 400-square-foot (37 m2) specialty food store in Westhampton Beach, 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 explained 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 Main 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 become 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 cookbooks
Under the guidance of her husband, Garten reemerged in 1999 with her attention turned to publishing. She carried on the Barefoot Contessa name in her 1999 sleeper bestseller, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Containing the recipes that made her store successful, the book far exceeded both Garten's and publisher Clarkson Potter's expectations. After an initial pressing of 35,000 copies, a typical number for a debut cookbook, it immediately required second and third print runs and eventually sold over 100,000 copies in its first year. In 2001, she capitalized on her new-found fame and released Barefoot Contessa Parties!, which also produced high sales and garnered good reviews, and followed this with Barefoot Contessa Family Style in 2002. The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and Parties! were nominated for 2000 and 2002 James Beard Awards, in the Entertaining & Special Occasion Cookbooks category. Parties! was a surprise entry, as she was considered inexperienced and untrained to compete with fellow nominees, revered French chef Jacques Pépin and international wine expert Brian St. Pierre.
Her cookbooks avoid an encyclopedic format, and are modeled on coffee table books. With many color photographs, including a full-page picture facing each recipe, some critics argue that this method sacrifices space that could be used for recipes. Nevertheless, her cookbooks have received positive reviews; in 2005, fellow chef Giada De Laurentiis named Garten one of her favorite authors. As of 2008[update], Garten's cookbooks have sold over 6 million copies combined. With the addition of a new cookbook in October 2014, she has now published nine cookbooks: 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), and Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (2014).
Barefoot Contessa on Food Network
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.
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.
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 & Barrel, Sur La Table, and Chicago's Fox & Obel Market Cafe. She plans to expand this brand in the near future if the first line of products is very successful.
Barefoot Contessa other publications
After critical acclaim and high sales of her first three cookbooks, she went on to write Barefoot in Paris and several columns for O, The Oprah Magazine. She also serves as the entertaining, cooking, and party planning consultant for the magazine. House Beautiful, a shelter magazine, featured a monthly Garten column entitled "Ask the Barefoot Contessa" until 2011. In this column, she gave cooking, entertaining, and lifestyle tips in response to letters from her readers. She launched a small line of note cards and journals to complement her books, and wrote the forewords for Kathleen King's Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook and Rori Trovato's Dishing With Style. One of her recipes, 'lemon roast chicken with croutons', was featured in The Best American Recipes 2005–2006. Another of Garten's dishes was selected for Today's Kitchen Cookbook, a compilation of the most popular recipes featured on the daily news program The Today Show. For Thanksgiving 2010, her recipes were featured by Google on their homepage In June 2012, she started a Facebook blog and three weeks later had over 100,000 followers.
Her husband Jeffrey Garten was Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade and dean of the Yale School of Management. He is now the Juan Trippe Professor in the Practice of International Trade, Finance, and Business at Yale. He can also frequently be seen on her cooking show, assisting his wife with simple tasks or sampling the dishes she has created. They divide their time among Manhattan, East Hampton, and Paris.
Garten served as hostess of the 16th Annual Hudson Peconic benefit for Planned Parenthood. Her Food Network show frequently features appearances by her openly gay friends and their partners. Though she has made no explicit statement regarding gay rights or the gay community in general, she did write in one of her books:
...We all know that families now aren't necessarily like Ozzie and Harriet (it turns out Ozzie and Harriet's family wasn't all Ozzie and Harriet)... family has a traditional context, but today it's not as simple as two parents with 2-3 kids... it's about relationships... it's about people who are bound together by love and a sense of being responsible for one another... it's spouses with no children, like Jeffrey and me... it's a group of women who meet to cook dinner together once a month... it's a one-parent family with adopted children... it's two men who've made a life together... at the end of the day, all we have is love... getting love, but even more, feeling love...
Garten also sits on the Design Review Board for East Hampton, a panel that grants building permissions and approves architectural and design elements of the village. The board seeks to protect the historical district and further the overall aesthetics of the area.
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- Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients (2008)
- Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That? (2010)
- Barefoot Contessa: Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust. Random House. 2012. ISBN 978-0-307464873. OCLC 776519282.
- Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Clarkson Potter. 2014. ISBN 978-0-307464880. OCLC 875771003.
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only use my real friends on the show
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