When I first saw Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network, I hated it. Something about it made me totally uneasy and it seemed unwatchable. At first I thought it was because of the host, Ina Garten, but after catching parts of the show a few more times, I realized it was because of the crack head cameraman. Maybe they're trying to be artsy by emulating The Blair Witch Project, but I find the weird camera angles distracting.
I also have a feeling they're trying to spend as little time as possible focusing on the sometimes-frumpy Ina. Can you imagine Rachael Ray or Sandra Lee with as few mid-range shots or closeups as Ina?
Once I got past the nauseating camerawork, I realized that my girl Ina can really cook. I especially love her desserts - they look like something that would come out of a swanky pastry shop and she often uses fresh fruit. Ina breaks it down so we mere mortals can make desserts like Raspberry Orange Trifle, Strawberry Country Cake, and Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes.
Ina is always cooking things for her husband Jeffrey, who works "far away" during the week and comes home on Friday nights. She's always seems overly-fawning when talking about him, like one of those girls in high school that talked about her "long distance boyfriend" who you know didn't exist. The way Ina talks about him is a little creepy and Stepford-ish sometimes, but not only does Jeffrey exist, they seem to have a comfortable, easygoing rapport, which makes sense since they've been married for 37 years.
I did some research on Jeffrey and I discovered two surprising things: 1) his name is not spelled Geoffrey - I would have bet the farm on that one - and 2) Jeffrey works "far away" as the Dean of the Yale School of Management.
I then discovered that Ina founded her specialty food store, Barefoot Contessa, after she grew tired of working at the White House Office of Management and Budget, specifically on Nuclear Energy Policy. What?! She says in this interview:
I worked in the White House from 1974 to 1978 during the Ford and Carter administrations. I worked in the Office of Management and Budget on nuclear energy issues. It was very exciting for the first few years because your work was going directly to the President. However, after four years, I realized that although I was working on projects that were $20 billion in size, nothing had happened in four years. I needed to run something that I owned and that I could make my own decisions with. Plus, I needed immediate feedback. I've found in the food business that I can decide at 8am if I want to see if people will buy sticky buns; we make them, and by 5pm I know if it was a good idea.It's not exactly a rags to riches story, but I do have respect for people who parlay their interests into careers they love. I've always wondered what she and Jeffrey did to afford that unbelievable house in the Hamptons, and now I know. Some people find Ina arrogant and flashy (how many times have we seen her Mercedes?), but that doesn't bother me. She's rich; get over it. Are we also going to pretend that Rachael Ray is just like you and me, spending $40 a Day when she travels? Besides, I think Ina has the nicest kitchen this side of Martha Stewart - that doesn't come cheap.
So now we know the story of Ina Garten, from White House wonk to Food Network star, cookbook author, and East Hampton hostess extraordinaire. She and is obviously educated and successful. Now why doesn't she fire that damn cameraman?