They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. And perhaps that explains why popular TV chef Ina Garten and her husband Jeffrey have been together since their teens. Indeed, viewers of her long-running show Barefoot Contessa will already know that many of the meals she prepares are for Jeffrey.
Now, the happy couple started dating way back in 1963 when Ina visited Dartmouth College where her brother was attending. There, she was spotted by Jeffrey, who was studying for his degree at the time. And ever the smooth operator, he managed to woo her with a heartfelt letter. The rest, they say, is history.
So Ina may be the household name but, of course, Jeffrey is very much a huge success in his own right. For starters, he was the dean of the prestigious Yale School of Management (SOM) for ten years until 2005. Nowadays, however, he still works there – but as a dean emeritus. Before that, though, he served as international trade undersecretary of commerce in Bill Clinton’s U.S. government. Crucially, the couple’s busy lifestyles mean that they have apparently had to work hard at their marriage.
Indeed, with Ina traveling all over the globe for her job, the couple’s long-standing relationship is often a long-distance one. But having celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2018, the pair are obviously getting something right. So here’s a look at Ina’s rise to fame and the man who’s been by her side throughout.
Raised in the Connecticut city of Stamford, Ina Garten wasn’t particularly encouraged to pursue her talents in the kitchen. Indeed, as a youngster her mother Florence insisted that she concentrate on her schoolwork rather than her culinary skills. But the future star was eventually allowed to indulge in her passion when she married husband Jeffrey in 1968.
Then, while Jeffrey was busy serving in the Vietnam War for four years, Ina decided to explore her love of cooking. On her husband’s return, the couple enjoyed a four-month camping trip in Paris which inspired her to get into French food. There, she also developed an interest in fresh ingredients from open-air market stalls.
After returning home, Ina studied America’s most famous TV chef, Julia Child, and her Mastering the Art of French Cooking book. Subsequently, she began hosting dinner parties on a weekly basis. However, her culinary ambitions took a backseat in the early 1970s when she and Jeffrey relocated to Washington, D.C.
While her husband was busy with graduate studies in the State Department, Ina too got involved in the world of politics. Firstly, she enrolled at George Washington University to study for an MBA. Additionally, she also landed a low-level position in the White House as a government aide. But she didn’t stop there.
That’s right, for in a short space of time Ina worked her way up to the role of budget analyst. Now, this involved writing both nuclear policy papers and budgets for two Presidents, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford. However, as her work commitments continued to increase, Ina found relief, once again, in the form of cooking.
And in 1978 Ina decided to wave goodbye to her government position and chase her culinary dream. For the star used the money she earned from renovating homes to buy a food store in New York’s Westhampton Beach. And its name? Maybe you’ve guessed it…Barefoot Contessa. With that, Ina was set for some success.
Although she’d never seen the Ava Gardner/Humphrey Bogart film the store was named after, Garten chose to keep the name. And it proved to be such a success that she twice had to relocate to bigger premises within the first seven years. In fact, by the mid-1980s, the store had expanded to a 3,000 square foot property in East Hampton.
Initially, Ina assumed most of the cooking duties at the store. But eventually she hired other bakers and chefs, such as future star Anna Pump, to meet demand. Furthermore, Lauren Bacall and Steven Spielberg were just two of the famous customers who sang the store’s praises in the media. However, in 1996 Ina made a decision.
Yes, she sold Barefoot Contessa to two of its workers, although she kept ownership of the property. And then, she spent her time getting to grips with the stock market and establishing her own website. In 1999 she became a best-selling author, shifting more than 100,000 copies of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.What’s more, she followed this up with the likes of Barefoot Contessa Parties! and Barefoot Contessa Family Style.
But it wasn’t until 2002 that even more fame came calling. For Ina landed her own TV show on the Food Network. Although the star initially turned down offers from the channel, she relented when the team behind Nigella Bites came on board. And named what else but Barefoot Contessa, the show instantly became a huge hit.
In fact, Barefoot Contessa attracted one million viewers each episode and in 2005 picked up its first Daytime Emmy Award nomination. By this point, Ina was being hailed as the natural successor to the disgraced Martha Stewart. But she wasn’t done there. For in 2006, she also launched her own food range, Barefoot Contessa Pantry. Then, Ina had quite the year in 2009.
Indeed, she won her first Daytime Emmy and signed on for another three years with the Food Network. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, the celebrity also became the highest-paid cookbook author of all time. And how did she do this? By landing a multiple book deal worth millions of dollars.
Outside the cookery world, Ina has hosted an annual benefit night for family planning charity, Planned Parenthood. Also, she’s donated money to Presidential campaigns launched by John Kerry, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. And by regularly inviting her gay friends onto her show, Ina has also become something of an LGBTQ icon.
Of course, not everyone is entirely enamored with Ina and her style of cooking. For example, the star has been heavily criticized for her love of foods high in calories, fat and cholesterol. For you see, The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine slammed recipes included in her Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That? cookbook.
But for the most part, Ina’s attempts to make entertaining guests that little bit easier have proved to be hugely popular. And it’s not just the food that makes Barefoot Contessa an appealing watch either. Indeed, filmed in Ina’s East Hampton home, the show is just as much property porn as it is a cookery.
What’s more, the show’s feelgood factor is enhanced by the various friends and family members that Ina invites on. Of course, one regular guest, in particular, has become a favorite with viewers. And it’s the man who Ina has shared her whole adult life with, her husband Jeffrey. On that note, it’s worth finding out more about their marital staying power.
Yes, because in 2019, the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary by giving an interview to People magazine. During the chat, Ina and Jeffrey revealed several of the secrets to their long-lasting marriage. But it was their recollection of how they got together that made for some of the most intriguing reading.
Indeed, the pair’s love story started in 1963 when a 15-year old Ina visited Dartmouth College to see her student brother. Unbeknown to her, Jeffrey had spotted Ina in the street. And subsequently, he sent her a letter with a photo of his 17-year-old self. Old fashioned as it may have seemed, it was still the 1960s. Surprisingly, moreover, Ina was actually impressed by his actions.
As the TV star went on to explain to People, “I just remember running through the house and going, ‘Mom, Mom, you’ve got to see this picture of this guy. He’s so cute!’” In fact, Jeffrey’s letter-writing came in handy, as he was soon deployed for a year to Thailand after their wedding.
“I wrote to Ina every single day,” Jeffrey revealed to People. “During the whole year I was only able to call her once.” Heartwarmingly, Ina has kept each and every letter that her husband wrote to her during their lengthy time apart. And one, in particular, amused her on reading it back nearly half a century later.
“I was recently reading through them, and I came across one that said, ‘I’d love to take you to Paris, and we won’t have enough money for a hotel, but maybe we’ll go camping’,” Ina said. Well, the couple might not have been able to afford a life of luxury at the time. But, of course, they now have a property of their own in the French capital.
In the same People interview, Ina also spoke about how her husband had inspired her early career. Now, this concerned her stint working in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget in the 1970s. She said, “He just thought I was really smart and that I could do anything. He was the first person I knew who thought that about me.”
To add to that, Jeffrey pointed out that he always believed Ina would go on to great things. As he went on to explain, “We were part of the first generation where there was a fork in the road for a lot of women, whether to pursue their careers or stay at home. Ina was a cross between the two.”
For you see, Ina still took on the role of a doting wife during her husband’s early working years. As Jeffrey recalled to People , “She would send me brownies in a shoe box when I was in college and make me sweaters. But it never crossed my mind that she wouldn’t also do something really interesting professionally.”
However, after following in her husband’s government footsteps, Ina soon came to realize that she was destined for another path. “I thought, ‘That’s not who I am, that’s who Jeffrey is,’” she told People in reference to her White House position. Sadly, though, the pair’s careers would continue to create obstacles between them.
Indeed, just as Ina was working on the Barefoot Contessa store, Jeffrey got sent to Japan by then employers, the Lehman Brothers. “For a couple of years we commuted between Tokyo and the Hamptons,” Jeffrey added. But once again it was the lost art of letter writing that helped the pair to maintain their close bond.
Yes, beautifully, during Jeffrey’s time in Japan during the 1980s, he continued to correspond with his wife via the written word. However, this time around she didn’t have to wait so long for each letter. Ina told People, “He used to write me notes all day, and he would fax them to me at night so when I woke up in the morning, I had them.”
Thankfully, the pair don’t spend as much time apart now they’re both in their early 70s. For Ina spends the majority of her time in the kitchen at their Hamptons’ home. There, she’s normally perfecting her latest cookbook or TV show recipes. Meanwhile, Jeffrey travels to and from Connecticut each day in his job as a Yale SOM professor.
But even when their work commitments do separate them, Jeffrey makes sure they stay in regular contact. That’s right, he told People, “When we’re not together, I’ll send her five or six texts per day. I love looking at her schedule. I can envision where she is and what she’s doing, and it doesn’t feel like we’re apart. If I could be with her seven days a week, 24 hours a day, that would be my ideal.”
Indeed, the pair seem to be just as much in love now as they were in their teens. “He’s just the best friend anybody could ever have,” Ina gushed to People. What’s more, she also emphasized that his slightly goofy public persona is different to the one he displays in private.
Referring to his cameos on Barefoot Contessa, Ina said, “He plays this adorable kind of doofus guy who comes in and goes, ‘Oh this is delicious, what’s in it?’ But in reality he’s extremely smart.” The cook went on to add that Jeffrey has “very interesting ideas on the world and the economy. His career has spanned government, academia, banking, and writing—he’s authored many books. I’m still just in awe of him.”
But if you thought the Gartens only communicate old school, think again. Because in addition to their interview with People for their golden wedding anniversary, they also took to Instagram. And there, they posted a series of throwback photos featuring themselves in their younger days. “How about those outfits and the ‘70s hair?,” Ina wrote of one particularly retro-looking snap.
What’s more, in another even more distant throwback photo, the couple can be seen leaving their wedding reception arm in arm. And Ina and Jeffrey appear positively beaming in the black and white image. However, there’s something a little unusual about the snap, too. For some reason, Jeffrey is carrying two tennis racquets.
You see, Ina had previously discussed the big day during a separate interview with People in 2017. She told the magazine, “It was a perfect day for a wedding. Right in the middle of the ceremony, it started to snow. It was beautiful and romantic, but by the end of the party, the poor guys parking cars had to dig everyone out!”
And the cook underlined why she feels their marriage has stayed so strong after all these years. She added, “No matter where he is, I always know that there’s nothing more important than me in his life. We give each other enormous freedom to do what we want to do. But we’re still the anchor.”
Intriguingly, Ina’s fans can look forward to discovering more insights into her and Jeffrey’s life – when her autobiography gets released.That’s right, because in October 2019 Celador Books confirmed that they would be publishing her memoir sometime in 2023. In a statement, the Barefoot Contessa star said she hopes to “inspire readers to find their own unique story.” Well, if theirs come even close to hers, they will have had quite a ride indeed.