Ina Garten, also known as the Barefoot Contessa, was born Ina Rosenberg in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Feb. 2, 1948. Even though she remains a popular star on the Food Network, Ina has no formal culinary training; she taught herself to cook with the aid of French and New England cookbooks that she purchased and studied diligently. She admired Julia Child and frequently credits her with inspiring her with the finer arts of cooking but she entered the spotlight after another amazing career.
During the late 1970s, Ina and her husband Jeffrey lived in Washington, D.C. while she worked for the White House Office of Management and Budget for Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, helping write budgets and policies for nuclear energy. When she was not working, she arranged elegant dinner parties at their home for fun and flipped houses in the neighboring districts while saving the profits to purchase a specialty food business in Westhampton Beach, N.Y. in 1978. It is noted that she had never visited the Hamptons before purchasing the Barefoot Contessa and had never worked in a restaurant or a store.
Her husband, Jeffrey, had a distinguishing 13-year career on Wall Street, as the undersecretary of Commerce and is now Dean Emeritus at the Yale School of Management. During their years living in Washington Ina decided to become a pilot and when she finished with her license, Jeffrey followed her lead and also became a licensed pilot. After years of success and expansion, Ina sold the gourmet food store in 1996 to an employee but retained the name of the Barefoot Contessa and the property. She admires the Julia Child method of cooking but is also influenced by famous baker Eli Zabar and television host and author Martha Stewart.
Ina expanded her business to include writing 12 best-selling cookbooks, countless magazine columns appear in the Food Network magazine, Martha Stewart Living, O magazine and House Beautiful but has declined to produce a line of cookware, a magazine, or furniture to bear her name.
She has received three Emmy awards and a James Beard Foundation Award.
Her cookbooks have now sold more than 6 million copies combined, and she continues to film her cooking show the “Barefoot Contessa” for the Food Network. Her show posts some of the highest viewing ratings on that channel.
She and Jeffrey have been married 53 years and decided early in their marriage not to have children; her favorite holiday is Thanksgiving and she insists on preparing the entire menu herself. They now divide their time between Manhattan, East Hampton and Paris.
One of her favorite quotes is "I often say that you can be miserable before eating a cookie and you can be miserable after eating a cookie, but you can never be miserable while you're eating a cookie."
Ina Garten refuses to eat cilantro or even feature the popular herb in any of her recipes; she vows to never eat it, not now, not ever.