Ina Garten is a queen.
Best known as the Barefoot Contessa, the name of her now-closed specialty food store in the Hamptons and also the name of her iconic Food Network show, Garten has been taking the food world by storm for years. From stores to shows to books, she’s done it all.
Garten published her first cookbook in 1999 and now, 16 years later, she’s just published her tenth one: Cooking For Jeffrey. The book is an homage to her husband and frequent TV show guest star, Jeffrey, and their 50-plus-year love affair.
Garten sat down with actress and comedian Tina Fey at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Tuesday night to talk about the book, Jeffrey, and of course, cooking.
A lot of people know the stories of their past ― Ina made Jeffrey shoeboxes of brownies to win his heart, and she used to work for the government ― but there’s still so much about the wonderful Contessa we didn’t know.
Here are some fun factoids we learned last night:
1. Her favorite part of the current political climate is Alec Baldwin.
Fey asked the cooking star how she feels about the current state of politics and Garten didn’t miss a beat. “I’m really enjoying Alec,” she said. (Baldwin’s been on Garten’s show and the two are friends).
2. She’s totally glad to be a gay icon.
HuffPost Queer Voices executive editor Noah Michelson asked Garten how she feels being beloved by the gay community and what it’s like being a gay icon, to which she said: “They’re my friends! I’m really glad people enjoy it ― no matter who they are. I just have friends that are creative and wonderful and I’m glad they want to be part of the show.”
3. She has her pilot’s license.
Garten told us that while she and Jeffrey were living in North Carolina, she decided to get her pilot’s license on a whim. Despite the license, she hasn’t flown since her time down South.
4. The people on the “Barefoot Contessa” are actually her friends.
“People ask to be on the show all the time, but ... it’s really just my friends,” she said.
5. Her perfect date-night menu always involves chicken.
Because Jeffrey works away from home Monday through Friday, Ina says her date nights with her husband are always Friday nights.
“Our date night menu always involves chicken. On Friday nights, we always sit down together with a big bottle of wine ―the house smelling like delicious roasted chicken ― and catch up,” she said.
6. If she could only eat one food for the rest of her life, it’d be good bread.
“Good bread, home-baked bread,” she said. “Or apple tart. French apple tart with thin apples and thin crust.”
7. She “never f**ks up.”
During the Q&A session of the evening, one audience member asked Garten what she does when she, well, f**ks up a recipe. Garten deadpanned, “I never f**k up,” which ― unsurprisingly ― received wild applause.
She followed up with,
“No, we all do it. Just add salt to it. Or scrap it and order pizza. Just get past it.”
8. Jeffrey knew he “hit the jackpot” when he and Ina went camping in Europe.
When Jeffrey came onstage, he told us about a time when he and Ina went camping for four months in Europe.
“Ina would go into specialty food stores when we were camping and ― on a gas-run stove ― she’d make meals the likes of which I’d never seen. I’d call my mother saying, ‘You’re never gonna believe this!’ That’s when I began to think that I hit the jackpot.”
Are you crying yet? No? Neither are we.
9. If Ina could be any cheese, she’d be “Good English Stilton.”
Because what else would she be?
10. The secret to Ina and Jeffrey’s “perfect” relationship is simplicity.
Another audience member asked about how Ina and Jeffrey keep their relationship so idyllic.
“We take care of each other,” she said. “We have a simple life. We don’t have dogs or cats or kids. We don’t have issues. It’s just about taking care of each other.”
11. All you need to be a good cook are three things.
“With half sheet pans, good knives and a Kitchen Aid mixer, you can make a lot of things,” Garten says.
If you love Ina just as much as we do, we also put together a handy Halloween costume guide for how to dress as her and Jeffrey.
And, most importantly, Garten wants everyone to know: Store bought is fine.