Ina Garten is a Jewish American author and host of the Food Network program Barefoot Contessa. She is known for designing her recipes with an emphasis on fresh ingredients and time-saving tips.
Ina Rosenberg was born February 2, 1948, in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Stamford, Connecticut by her parents Charles H. and Florence Rosenberg. She attended Syracuse University, but postponed her studies to marry her husband, Jeffrey Garten, on December 22, 1968, and relocate to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Garten began to dabble in cooking and entertaining to occupy her time while her husband served his four-year military tour during the Vietnam War. After her husband completed his military service, the couple journeyed to Paris, France, where Garten experienced open-air markets, produce stands and fresh cooking ingredients for the first time and discovered her love for French cuisine. When she returned to the United States, she began cultivating her culinary abilities by studying the volumes of Julia Child's seminal cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
In 1972, Garten and her husband moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked in the White House and took business courses at George Washington University, eventually earning her MBA. Originally employed as a low-level government aide, she climbed the political ladder to the Office of Management and Budget and was assigned the position of budget analyst, which entailed writing the nuclear energy budget and policy papers on nuclear centrifuge plants for Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.
Strained by the pressures of her work and the serious, high-power setting of Washington, Garten once again turned to cooking and entertaining in her free time, constantly arranging dinner parties and soirées at her home on the weekends. Meanwhile, she worked on flipping homes in the Dupont Circle and Kalorama neighborhoods and used the profits to buy the Barefoot Contessa specialty food store.
Garten has no formal culinary training and she taught herself with the aid of French and New England cookbooks. Later, she relied on intuition and feedback from customers and friends to refine her recipes. She was mentored chiefly by Eli Zabar, owner of Eli's Manhattan and Eli's Breads, and food-show host and author Martha Stewart. Her culinary career began with her gourmet food store, Barefoot Contessa, then Garten expanded her activities to several best-selling cookbooks, magazine columns, self-branded convenience products and a popular Food Network television show.
Garten is Jewish by birth and heritage, as is her husband, but rarely refers to her religion and ethnicity, though they are showcased through the inclusion of classic Jewish cooking in her television show and cookbooks, when she makes such dishes as rugelach, challah, and brisket.
Her husband, Jeffrey, went on to become the Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade and dean of the Yale School of Management. He is now the Juan Trippe Professor in the Practice of International Trade, Finance, and Business at Yale. He can also frequently be spotted on her cooking show, assisting his wife with menial tasks or sampling the dishes she has created. They divide their time between Manhattan, East Hampton, and Paris.