18 Things You Didn't Know About Ina Garten

Love the Barefoot Contessa? Get the inside scoop on everything Ina.

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All About Ina

The Barefoot Contessa shares her favorite meal to make, her cooking philosophy and more.

She Cooks Only from Her Cookbooks

“I trust them,” she says. And after all these years, she still prefers a recipe over winging it. “I’m a science person. I measure everything.”

Check it Out: Ina Garten's Cookbook Library

She’s Never Watched Herself on TV

"I couldn’t possibly. If I watched a show, I don’t think I’d ever do it again," she says, laughing. "Filming is still the most-frightening thing I’ve done. It’s just sheer terror. I haven’t gotten used to it yet."

She Doesn't Like Cilantro

I just don’t like it at all. I actually can almost taste it when somebody else has it on their plate. I find it so strong it overpowers everything else. As a flavor, I just don't like the flavor. But I think what I taste is different from somebody else tastes for some reason.

She Eats Irish Oatmeal Every Day for Breakfast

If she had to eat one dish for the rest of her life it would be oatmeal. “I use McCann's Irish Oatmeal. I cook it with water in a microwave—it's perfectly great. I like it with lots of salt and milk. Really simple ... Every once in a while, I think, maybe I'll have some toast instead, and I regret it." Try her Sunday Morning Oatmeal, "It's what I make when I'm off duty ... Instead of mac & cheese, for me, comfort food is oatmeal."

Get the Recipe: Sunday Morning Oatmeal

She Is More Pop-Savvy Than You'd Think

“I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan,” she admits. 

See More Photos: Behind the Scenes: Ina Garten and Taylor Swift 

She Eschews Fancy Foods

“When I did fancy things in the store, nobody really bought them. People wanted roast chicken and roasted carrots. I’m inspired by specialty food-store recipes as opposed to restaurants.” 

Get the Recipe: Perfect Roast Chicken

Her Go-To Dinner Party Dish Is Rack of Lamb

For dinner parties, Ina keeps the menu simple: whiskey sours, rack of lamb, and orzo with roasted vegetables. "Everyone loves it," she says. "It never fails."

Get the Recipe: Rack of Lamb

She Works Only with Friends

"A lot of people have asked to be guests, but I really keep it to friends. I don’t think you can fake a party," she says. A new and notable favorite: Tina Fey. "She’s wonderful. She’s everything you think she is and gorgeous to boot."

See More Photos: Cooking with Friends: In the Kitchen with Ina Garten

She Doesn’t Cook for Herself

"Cooking is a sharing thing; it’s not about the cooking itself," she says. "If I’m by myself, I’ll have fruit, yogurt and granola, or [I'll] get soup from somewhere nearby, like Loaves & Fishes."

See More Photos: Behind the Scenes of Barefoot in L.A.

She's Happily Type A

"I’m satisfied when something is done very well. I feel I need to have my hands in it. My publisher will tell you that there isn’t a font or color or recipe or ingredient I haven’t been involved with," she says. "I don’t have a lot of people around me; I do it all myself, so that limits what I can do. But for me, I find that very satisfying."

She Admires Bobby Flay

"How does he do it? He blows me away. He has restaurants all over the world, cookbooks, television shows. I can’t imagine how he does it, and he does them all well," she says.

See More Photos: A Barefoot Thanksgiving with Ina and Bobby

She Loves Thanksgiving

"It’s my favorite meal to make each year," she says. On this year’s menu: Accidental Turkey, from her cookbook Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, spinach gratin, truffle mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie with rum.

See More Photos: A Make-Ahead Feast: Ina Garten's Thanksgiving Menu

Booze Is Her Surprise Ingredient

Ina knows that sometimes a touch of liquor is the perfect way to add extra flavor to a dish, like her pumpkin mousse parfait which she spikes with dark rum. "Booze is always my secret weapon!" she jokes.

Get the Recipe: Pumpkin Mousse Parfaits

She Loves Serial Drama Shows

The show Homeland is at the top of her must-watch list.

She Refuses to Endorse Products

"I’ve been asked to do everything from dining tables to clothing — who would want me to do their clothing? — to soy sauce," she says. "I was asked to do something with the United Nations. I mean, solve the problems of the world? Yeah, I’ll make everyone chicken pot pie and they’ll be happy!" Ina says, laughing.

She Owns Property in Paris

Ina first fell in love with Paris when she and Jeffrey visited as a young couple. They went camping outside the city, and Jeffrey promised that one day he would take her back. Now, they own a pied-a-terre in the 7th Arrondissement and visit several times a year.

See More Photos: Star Kitchen: Ina Garten's Paris Kitchen

She's Won Two James Beard Awards

Ina received the prestigious medal for Outstanding Personality/Host two years in a row for her show Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics.

She Used to Work in the White House

Before she was the Barefoot Contessa, Ina worked in the White House as a budget analyst focusing on nuclear energy policy. She began her culinary career in 1978, when she and Jeffrey bought Barefoot Contessa, a specialty food shop in the Hamptons on Long Island. They eventually sold the store, but her nickname stuck.

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