February 2, 1948
New York City, U.S.
|Education||Syracuse University (BA)|
George Washington University (MBA)
Ina Rosenberg Garten (// EYE-nə; 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. She was primarily mentored by Eli Zabar (owner of Eli's Manhattan and Eli's Breads), Anna Pump, 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.
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 (née Rich), a dietitian. Encouraged to excel in school, she showed an aptitude for science and has said she uses her scientific mindset while experimenting with recipes. Garten's mother (an intellectual with an interest in opera) discouraged Ina from helping in the kitchen, instead directing her towards schoolwork. Garten described her father as a socializer, and admits she shares more characteristics with him than 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 majoring in economics, but postponed her educational pursuits to marry.
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 Paris, France, 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; 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.
Garten left her government job in 1978 after spotting an ad for a 400-square-foot (37 m2) 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. Ironically, as of 2006 she had not seen the film.
Within a year, Garten had moved Barefoot Contessa across Main Street to a larger property, which it quickly outgrew. In 1985, the store relocated again to the newly vacated premises of gourmet shop Dean & DeLuca in the prosperous Long Island village of East Hampton. In contrast to Westhampton's seasonal beach atmosphere, East Hampton houses a year-round community, providing a larger, wealthier customer base. In East Hampton, Garten expanded the store over seven times its original size, from its original 400 square feet (37 m2) to more than 3,000 square feet (280 m2). 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 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 Nicholson-Diane Keaton film Something's Gotta Give. The store was permanently closed in 2004 when the property lease expired and negotiations failed between Garten (still the owner of the building) and the new owners. Allegedly, Garten tactically refused to meet lease negotiations to regain control of the store after Forst and Hodges lost the business to a competitor, Citarella. Garten did not reopen the shop but retained the property for potential new tenants.
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!, Parties! also produced praise and high sales; Barefoot Contessa Family Style followed 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—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 on coffee table books to avoid an encyclopedic format. 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 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.
See also: Barefoot Contessa
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. 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 Nigella Bites was assigned to the deal. She acquiesced to a 13-show season, and 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.
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.
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.
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. In 2019, she partnered with author Sheryl Haft and illustrator Jill Weber on a children's book, Goodnight Bubbala, which includes her recipe for potato latkes and was featured on the Today Show.
Garten was selected for the inaugural 2021 Forbes 50 Over 50; made up of entrepreneurs, leaders, scientists and creators who are over the age of 50.
Her husband Jeffrey Garten was Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade and Juan Trippe Professor in the Practice of International Trade, Finance, and Business at Yale. He was the dean of the Yale School of Management from 1995 to 2005. 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. Registered in New York as a Democrat, Garten has contributed to the presidential campaign funds of George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, and Barack Obama.
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.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has criticized Garten's cookbook Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That? for its use of high-fat, high-calorie, and high-cholesterol meat and dairy ingredients. In response, Eric Felten of The Wall Street Journal called the report "an assault on cookbooks that dare to venture beyond lentils."
But eventually she just said, 'I'm sorry, I only use my real friends on the show.'