Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Barefoot Contessa Project



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?




14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think your blog is great! I am addicted to the Food Network and adore Ina Garten as well.

books said...

I really like IG. I think she's a really cool person. I love how she gets all jacked up to cook for her hubbie. Now that's luuuve.

Hawkeye said...

I love Ina and wish I could be her friend. She has a great house,an apartment in Paris, seems to love her husband and has lots of cool gay guy friends. And you're right, she's rich and can seem a bit pretentious, but oh well. She really knows what she's doing and is passionate about it. The FN needs more shows like hers. I'd love to have a party with her, Dan and Steve, Michael Chirarella and Sara Moulton.

Jeff said...

I like Ina Garten. She's like a comfortable old pair of shoes...you just don't want to get rid of them--uh, her. As for the camera angles, etc., I don't think they're so distracting. I want to see the food in various stages of preparation, and closeups do that nicely. (The same London, UK, team that produces Nigella Lawson's series and brought former Wilhelmina model and degreed nutritionist Ellie Krieger to Food Network are responsible for this show, and have done so beautifully.
Jolly good shows!

cornellcrawford said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cornellcrawford said...

I love the BFC. Really. She's intelligent and equally fabulous. Love her style, love her house, love her food, love her attitude. I think she's the perfect fag-hag. She loves her gay boys, even some lesbians, and the woman obviously loves to eat (does BFC stand for Big Fat Cook, too?). But after watching her show religiously, using her recipes, and drooling over her kitchen, I think I may have over-dosed on too much of a good thing (sorry, Martha). There are some really annoying idiosyncrasies that I've observed, as I'm sure many other devotees have. First, when she's serving her husband or friends, she chuckles after EVERY thing she says: "Who wants croissant bread pudding...ah ha ha ha??" "Can we sail to Paris...ah ha ha ha??" Why is that funny? Is this a nervous laugh or is she hitting the sauce behind the camera? And can we please get over the mandate for GOOD ingredients? It's always good this, good that, good olive oil, good chocolate, good parmesan...pretty soon it's going to spread and no recipe will be complete without good flour and good water. These quirks would be great in a FN drinking game...ah ha ha ha...

Rosemary said...

Ina - I love her. She's someone that I'd love to know. And - she's NOT Rachael Ray. My only complaint with Ina's shows is that I'm tired of seeing the same ones. When are they going to get some new BC shows? When they show one over the weekend on Saturday, the same show is seen on Monday. Who programs this stuff. Gimmee more and different Ina and Jeffrey - a true love story there. That Chefography really told some good stories.

Doris said...

My husband and I cannot stand the giggles at the end of every show. It is such a strain. Also, why are we seeing the same cooking sessions over and over and over? It is annoying. I can say the words right along with her.
I want new shows and fewer giggles.
Doris

Marilane said...

Enough of your grumpy posts. Can't you see that Ina is warm and authentic? That's rare. Her recipes are well-conceived and dependable.
Count me as an Ina fan. I'd drink hot chocolate with her any day. Now
let me urge more new shows rather than reruns.

Marilane

Craigy said...

Ok...I remember the first time I saw BFC...I thought there was something peculiar about her...Then I decided she ODs on antidepressants...for some time after I just called it the Spooky show and with Sandra Lee following right after I called it the Spooky and Droopy hour...All that aside I do like her cooking talent...She only uses "Good" ingredients and it shouldn't matter that she's rich...I think most people on the FN are...Some new shows with fewer gay friends are in order...Also she needs to let Jeffrey get a freaking boat...

Judy said...

Message for Jeffrey: 7/13/08 On Fri.,6/13/08 Tim Russert (MSNBC) died at age 58; Sat.,7/12/08 Bobby Mercer (Yankees) died at age 62 and Tony Snow (Fox News) died at age 53. If you are serious about wanting a boat , unless this banter between you and your wife is all-for-show, you need to buy the boat this summer before it's too late. Her comments "I'd be nauseous", not on my watch, very distant future (from the show Shore Thing) are childish and selfish. You are an adult, a Professor at Yale, time to be a man. After 37 years of marriage do something for yourself.

salzy said...

I love watching Ina and am so impressed with her cooking and entertaining expertise. I hope that Jeffrey is not just coming home on the weekend for the food. He's still attractive and I'd be a tad worried if I were Ina and my husband was away all week, around cute coeds. I hope Ina tapes some new episodes, stops the nervous laughing and loses some weight so I don't have to worry about her dying prematurely from a heart attack!

cali said...

The Contessa is one of my favorites. I wouldn't hesitate to serve any of the dishes she makes; if I could afford the ingredients.

Ebony said...

I am very pleased that so many of you think that Ina Garten is so wonderful because the pre-mixed foods that her company puts out under the name Bare Foot Contessa brand are horrible. I made one of her coffee cakes for Thanksgiving and everyone Hated it and so did I. Yuk!