The Food Network icon Ina Garten has been a major name in cuisine for years now, but she rose to a new level of popularity when she shared a video on how to make a giant cosmopolitan at 9:30 in the morning at the start of the pandemic. Now, she and Melissa McCarthy are partnering up for a new show Cocktails and Tall Tales.
As Ina Garten grew in popularity in the culinary world, she took on the name of the Barefoot Contessa. In Italian, contessa means “countess,” and now that Ina Garten will be hosting a new show, many of us are wondering if she’s a real countess.
Ina Garten is known as the Barefoot Contessa, but that’s not because she is a real contessa.
According to Ina Garten’s blog, the name “Barefoot Contessa” comes from the name of her first store she bought in 1978. Ina had bought the specialty food store to kickstart her culinary career. Ina shared on her blog, “The former owner is Italian and her family called her the Barefoot Contessa when she was young. It's about being elegant and earthy which is what we're about.”
The store was simultaneously named after the 1950s film The Barefoot Contessa, which starred Ava Gardner and Humphrey Bogart, and was the inspiration for the previous owner’s nickname. In the movie, Ava Gardner plays an enthralling dancer at a nightclub who enjoys going barefoot. She eventually becomes a major movie star, and her rise to fame is comparable to Ina Garten’s.
Because the Barefoot Contessa name really does encompass Ina Garten’s brand, she applied it to almost everything she did. Her first cookbook was called The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, which came out in 1999. When the Food Network approached her for a show, she initially turned them down but eventually began her own cooking series, The Barefoot Contessa.
Ina Garten is not a real contessa, but she does have a unique history.
A countess, according to Google’s dictionary, is “the wife or widow of a count or earl.” And a count is a historical title of nobility in European countries and has to do with one’s status due to owning land. While Ina Garten made a big profit off of real estate, neither she nor her husband, Jeffrey Garten, have any sort of contessa-like status.
In actuality, Ina was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., to a Jewish family and raised in Stamford, Conn. back in the 1950s. It was very common for women to not be expected to work, but Ina’s family had the opposite mindset. They encouraged her to focus on her schoolwork and stay out of the kitchen, and Ina excelled in science and math.
However, when Ina traveled to Paris with her new husband, she simply adored French cuisine (who doesn’t?) and decided to study Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking when she came back to the states.
After that, Ina started doing weekly dinner parties while earning an MBA at George Washington University and working at the White House. She quickly worked her way up the ranks at the White House and eventually held the position of federal budget analyst. But when Ina had enough money to buy the Barefoot Contessa store, she quit her well-respected job to follow her culinary dreams.
Even though Ina Garten may not be a real contessa, she is definitely still a real star.