Ina Garten Is a Nervous Cook & 10 More Surprising Things We Learned From Her "60 Minutes" Interview

Are we the only ones who didn't know she worked in the White House?

ina garten carving a chicken with a green and blue gradient background
Photo: Dotdash Meredith

In case you missed it, Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa, was on CBS's "60 Minutes" this weekend, and it was — as expected — adorable. But her interview was also eye-opening and revealing about just how much work it took the Ina Garten we know and love to get to where she is now.

Here are our top takeaways from the interview, including a few fun facts you'll never see coming.

1. Ina Doesn't Call Herself "Confident" in the Kitchen

It's hard to believe but Ina calls herself, a "nervous cook" who's "sure every recipe is going to turn out wrong." While she'd love us to all think she's cooking with a glass of wine in one hand and a spoon in the other, she is incredibly precise and takes every measure to ensure a dish's success, which brings us to our next point...

2. Ina Always Follows the Recipe

Perhaps one of the most surprising points in the whole interview is that even The Barefoot Contessa follows recipes. Since Ina is largely self-taught, she doesn't feel comfortable riffing or throwing things together in the ways that restaurant-trained cooks like her friend, Bobby Flay, can. She always sticks to recipes, even after authoring over a dozen cookbooks and spending decades cooking professionally. And that includes her own; she confessed, "I follow my own recipes exactly."

3. Her Recipes Are Tested Upwards of 25 Times!

And why does she love sticking to those recipes? Because she takes painstaking care to ensure the right balance of textures and flavors. On how long it takes to get a dish right: "Sometimes 10 times. Sometimes 25 times." Don't worry, she's not doing it alone — Ina has assistants who help her check, and re-check... and re-check the recipes.

4. Ina Learned Everything She Knows From Julia Child

Well maybe not everything, but cooking her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking was a seminal experience for Ina. After backpacking through France with Jeffrey in her early 20s, Ina returned to the States with a mission: to work her way through Child's complicated books (Julie & Julia who?!) The experience was a challenge, Ina admits, but extremely informative. Without a formal culinary education, she says, "Julia Child was my cooking school."

5. Both Gartens Worked in the White House

It's true. Before she was frosting cakes and roasting engagement-inducing chickens, Ina — who studied economics in college — worked analyzing nuclear energy policy for the Ford administration. Jeffrey worked in the State Department around the corner, of course.

6. She Never Makes a Recipe for the First Time for Company

Now knowing she's a nervous cook, it all makes sense, but Ina maintains a steadfast rule: she has to make a recipe at least once, preferably several times, before making it for a crowd. That meant Jeffrey got a lot of repeat meals leading up to dinner parties, but knowing Ina's culinary prowess, we can't say we feel bad for the guy.

7. Ina Found The Barefoot Contessa in a New York Times Ad

That's The Barefoot Contessa shop, by the way. Before the moniker became ubiquitous with Ina Garten herself, it was a specialty food shop and grocer in the Hamptons on Long Island, New York. At 30 years old, burnt out from the world of politics, Ina saw an ad in the Times for a specialty food shop for sale called The Barefoot Contessa. She and Jeffrey double-mortgaged their house and took a chance on the store, bringing their now-routine dinner parties to a new audience, a new location, and a totally new format.

With a lot of hard work (try 20-hour days), and some trial-and-error, the store was a runaway success. She expanded to a bigger store and her popularity grew and grew, becoming a mainstay of the Hamptons food scene. After 18 years, Ina sold the store in 1998.

8. She Wrote Her First Cookbook Out of Boredom

Ina Garten admits that she has, "a very low threshold for boredom". After selling the store, she thought her career might just be over at 50. But not even 9 months later, she found herself occupying her time by writing her first cookbook; the first of 13 and counting!

She channeled the store's success into the book; taking lessons from what sold and when, and teaching people how to recreate their favorite dishes from her store at home. Dishes like, "roasted chicken, roasted carrots, and chocolate cake", became the backbone of her growing culinary empire, and those principles still stand today.

9. Garten's Cookbooks Are Meticulously Designed

From the way they're formatted, to the photos, to the recipe selections, everything about Ina's books is carefully calculated. She sought out a special printer in Japan so that her cookbooks would lay flat, meaning people can seamlessly cook along with the recipes — hands-free and without worrying that the pages will flip shut on them halfway through.

There are also special margins for home cooks to take notes in, photos to illustrate more complex processes, and strict rules about which recipes make it into the books. Simplicity is key; Ina contends, "If I get to a point in a recipe and I go, 'I am never going to make this recipe again,' everything goes in the trash."

10. Talking With Her Mouth Full Got Her a Food Network Show

That is, of course, not all that landed her a deal with Food Network, but it did catch the attention of an executive when she was a guest on Martha Stewart's show. In an outtake, taking a spoonful of something she and Martha had made, Ina — mouth full — remarked on how good it tasted. The crew yelled cut, claiming they couldn't use a clip where she talked with her mouth full. But it was that warmth and authenticity that sparked a conversation with Food Network's team, and those qualities remain a staple of Ina's shows to this day.

11. Yes, She and Jeffrey Really Are That Cute

Ina met her husband Jeffrey at just 16 years old, and the two were married four years later. They've now been married for over a half of century and are still as in love as they were when they met.

Ina calls him her "muse" and Jeffrey calls her, "the center of my life" and "the font of an enormous amount of fun." He continued, "She is the center of a home". Our eyes suddenly feel a little misty. Has someone been cutting onions???

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