Why Ina Garten Wasn't Allowed To Cook Growing Up

Often, avid cooks and food enthusiasts will point to their experiences in the kitchen with parents, grandparents, or other family members as the starting point of their passion for cooking, baking, or learning about food. However, Ina Garten's path to becoming the Barefoot Contessa was vastly different.

"I think my mother just wanted me in my room and she wanted the kitchen to herself. She said: 'It's your job to study, it's my job to cook. Get out of the kitchen,'" Garten told Al Roker on his podcast "Cooking Up a Storm."

It also seems that there was little to be inspired by at the dining room table in Garten's childhood home. Her mother, a dietician, was surely not serving up the likes of parmesan smashed potatoes, Moroccan lamb tagine, or a French apple tart like you can find in one of Garten's many cookbooks. Instead, the chef has said that margarine was substituted for butter in the household and that a plate of chicken and canned peas was the type of dish that might be served for dinner. A simple apple qualified as dessert.

Garten did initially follow her mother's directive to study and eventually graduated with an MBA from George Washington University. Then, she secured a position at the White House, working as a nuclear budget analyst. However, her love of food and cooking had begun to bloom, and by age 30, Garten changed direction.

How did Ina Garten become a beloved cook and personality?

Despite the fact that Ina Garten had always had an interest in cooking, it wasn't until she married her husband Jeffrey, at 20 years old, that she had the opportunity to delve into making meals. Using cookbooks like Craig Claiborne's "The New York Times Cookbook" and Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," Garten taught herself how to cook. Eventually, a four-month-long trip she and Jeffrey took to Paris ignited the fire to pursue a career involving food.

Shortly thereafter, Garten bought the Barefoot Contessa marketplace in Westhampton, which eventually became the namesake of her brand. Through the shop, Garten became a purveyor of bread and simple but wholesome foods like the ones she now shares with readers of her cookbooks and viewers of her award-winning show on Food Network. Two decades later, and a few years after moving the popular shop to East Hampton, Garten sold it.

However, that was merely the start of Garten's wade into the world of food, of course. Only three years later, in 1999, Garten's first cookbook was published and quickly became a bestseller. In the following three years, she published two more cookbooks and was picked up by Food Network, which aired her cooking show, "The Barefoot Contessa," from 2002-2021.

What is Ina Garten doing now?

The Barefoot Contessa may not have been allowed to cook when she was growing up, but she's certainly made up for lost time with her ongoing work in the kitchen and beyond. She continues to author cookbooks, with 13 titles to her name to date. She also appears at events and is in the process of writing a memoir. Those who follow her website can also find curated collections of some of her favorite ingredients and cookware, or read her musings on anything from her menu for a recent dinner party to her favorite love songs, or how to get Thanksgiving dinner on the table in a snap with the help of store-bought ingredients.

Additionally, fans of Garten's "Barefoot Contessa" show on Food Network will be elated to hear that the popular cook is coming back to television screens. Her newest show, "Be My Guest," follows her and a guest throughout the day at her home and around the East Hampton area. Plus, there are accompanying versions of the series, including a podcast.