Since the release of her first cookbook The Barefoot Contessa in 1999 (and for years before that, through interactions with customers in her specialty food store of the same name), America has fallen in love with Ina Garten. Home cooks turn to her approachable recipes for both weeknight dinners and elaborate holiday parties. And they tune into her Food Network show, which is filmed in her East Hampton, NY home, to watch her entertain friends and family. But fans love Ina for more than just her food. Her relationship with husband Jeffrey, who frequently appears at the end of episodes to sample the recipes, is just as endearing.
So, what’s the dish that stole Jeffrey’s heart? Homemade brownies, Garten told an audience at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Tuesday night, where she was interviewed by celebrity fan Tina Fey (who told Garten she was “more beloved than Tom Hanks and Blue Ivy combined”.) Garten first met Jeffrey when she was in high school and he was studying at Dartmouth, and began sending shoeboxes of brownies to his dorm. “When those brownies came, I was the most popular guy in class,” Jeffrey said. Garten was equally as enamored with Jeffrey. “I thought, this is the cutest guy I’ve ever seen in my life,” Garten said. “And he still is.”
Ina credits her successful career to the constant encouragement she receives from Jeffrey, and her latest cookbook, Cooking for Jeffrey, celebrates her love of doing just that. “Cooking for him really created my career,” Garten said. “Cooking for Jeffrey is why I have the life that I have. I wanted [the book] to be a love letter to him.”
Though Garten says Jeffrey has never disliked anything she’s served him, he does have some favorites from their 47 years of marriage. For starters, there’s her challah, which was one of the first things she made for him (her recipe for Challah with Saffron is in the book). His favorite recipe from the book is the Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken, which she serves on Fridays for date night with a bottle of wine. For dessert (other than brownies), he enjoys the Vanilla Rum Panna Cotta with Salted Caramel. And at brunch time, he prefers her frittatas. Jeffrey's role in the kitchen has stayed consistent over the years: making the coffee.
Now that Garten can cross a 10th cookbook off her list, fans are curious about her next steps. In the midst of food-saturated social media and crazy food trends, Garten plans to continue making the food she knows and loves. "I'm not looking to do what everyone else is doing," she said. "...It's not about octopus eyeballs. It's about a good BLT."