Poised, composed and classy, she is a celebrity chef in a way many celebrity chefs are not. She doesn't do a ton of publicity, she doesn't have eight different shows on the Food Network — heck, she reportedly doesn't even watch her own show.
And she cooks for the people.
She is Ina Garten, whose cookbooks and cooking show The Barefoot Contessa have helped maintain a decadeslong career in the culinary world. In the celeb chef realm, Garten is the undisputed queen of entertaining, a warm presence who invites viewers into her home and is always willing to share her cooking with others, particularly her husband, Jeffrey. Her food is simple but stellar, homey but elegant — an inspiration to home cooks and professional chefs alike. Everyone loves the Barefoot Contessa.
On Nov. 2, Tampa foodies can see her in person, when the Brooklyn-based chef comes to the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts for An Evening With Ina Garten. Before she comes to town, Times food critic Laura Reiley got a chance in the interview for our cover story to talk to her about her past, her favorite recipes and her decadeslong fame.
Here are some other things you may not know about her.
• Ina and Jeffrey go way back. Anyone familiar with Garten is also familiar with her husband, at least by name. Jeffrey is referred to constantly on the chef's Food Network show; he is the beneficiary of her mouth-watering meals. It has been practically a lifelong love. She met Jeffrey when was just 15 years old, and married him in 1968, when she was 20 and he was 22.
• She used to work in the White House. Specifically, in the White House Office of Management and Budget, where she was a budget analyst under Presidents Ford and Carter. I know, right?
• This is how she got that nickname. The Barefoot Contessa was the name of the specialty foods store Garten bought in 1978 that launched her career in food. By the mid-'90s, she turned the Hamptons-set store, named after a 1954 Ava Gardner-Humphrey Bogart movie, into a business with more than 100 employees.
• She is kind of a hoarder. Garten collects cookbooks and cake stands, and stores them in one room in her test kitchen across the street from her house, nicknamed the Barn.
• Her show has been on for more than a decade. The Barefoot Contessa has filmed more than 250 episodes since it began in 2002 on the Food Network.
• She is into pop culture. She told the Food Network that she's a huge Taylor Swift fan. A couple of years ago, she posted an Instagram on her account @inagarten with the caption: "Just another day at the office — OMG cooking with Taylor Swift! Love her!!! @taylorswift @foodnetwork_mag". She also considers Tina Fey a pal.
Contact Michelle Stark at [email protected] or (727) 893-8829. Follow @mstark17.