Q&A with The Barefoot Contessa

My dear readers, I pinched my tender alabaster arm as I typed this post, for I had a dream come true
recently. I was graciously given the opportunity to interview THE Barefoot Contessa, aka Ina Garten aka the ultimate domestic goddess.

A brilliant and accomplished chef, author of eight cookbooks, host of her own Food Network show, former White House nuclear policy analyst (go Ina!), and consummate hostess-with-the-mostess, I have adored Ina since I first made her blissful coconut cupcake recipe with my godmother many years ago. In addition to her absolute fabulousness, I love that Ina’s recipes are unequivocally delicious, foolproof, easy to prepare, and use good quality ingredients. Whether you’re cooking for a dinner party, dropping off dinner to a friend who has just had a baby, or making a quick supper for your family on a Tuesday night, you can always count on her recipes to be sensational. I have all of her cookbooks of course, and when I use them, I often feel like Ina is in the kitchen with me, cheering me along.

One last detail that delights me to no end – you’ve often heard me say that having good manners means making people feel comfortable. Well great minds think alike! In her inaugural cookbook Ina states, “Food is not about impressing people. In fact, it’s just the opposite: it’s about making them feel comfortable” – love! I’m elated to share her interview and I hope you enjoy it!

How did you learn to cook? 
In the 1970’s, we studied Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking like it was the bible and we had just found religion. I also learned from many friends – such as my dear friend Anna Pump from Loaves and Fishes who taught me that each dish needs to look like it’s ingredients, and so our rosemary white bean soup has chunky white beans and whole rosemary in it.

Can you share the story of how you created The Barefoot Contessa?
In 1978 I was working in the White House on nuclear energy policy, and thought there had to be more to life. I came across an ad in the new york times for a speciality food store for sale in the Hamptons so I decided to investigate. My husband Jeffrey and I drove up to see this store – it was only four hundred square feet but I was love at first sight. I made an offer, and the next day the owner called and accepted it. Yikes!

You have oodles of  scrumptious recipes – which are your and Jeffrey’s favorite? What is your go-to dinner party menu?
We love the Rack of Lamb, Orzo with Roasted Vegetables and Fresh Whiskey Sours. Not only are they both my and Jeffrey’s favorite recipes, but they are always our go-to dinner party menu.

What are your kitchen tool must-haves?
A rasp. It’s a fine grater, ideal for lemon zest, Parmesan, nutmeg, and cinnamon.

Are you working on any new cook books?

What inspires you when you’re creating new recipes? 
I gather my inspiration from seeing things, traveling, and remembered flavors from my childhood.

Do you have any tips for hostesses when trying to prepare a memorable meal for her guests?
I recommend that you prepare as many of the recipes in advance as possible.

Ina’s house, NY Times 
Ina’s Barn, House Beautiful
Ina’s garden, House Beautiful
Ina’s Kitchen, NY Times 
Ina’s Paris apartment, Town & Country 
Ina’s Table, House Beautiful 

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  1. What a dream, Mrs. Buns! You are spot on — whether cooking for a dinner party or making her oh so effortless vinaigrette nearly every evening at home, you can always count on Ina. From her classic table settings to love of Jeffery (I mean, who doesn’t get a smile every time he conveniently arrives home JUST in time for a chicken dinner!) she is a consummate pro.

  2. That is sooo awesome that you got to interview Ina! Her tuna tartare & potatoes au gratin are 2 classic staples in my kitchen. When I host little get togethers, my friends love the tuna tartare on wonton crisps. Glad to have found your blog!

    XO, Stefanie
    Life on the Squares