The Barefoot Contessa In A Mouth-Watering Interview

by Cailey Hall · January 10, 2011

Roast chicken – among other butter-bathed foods – came up frequently during Alex Witchel’s interview with Ina Garten (aka: The Barefoot Contessa) during the New York Times Arts&Leisure Weekend. The Saturday evening event, tantalizingly, was likely the series’s most hunger-inducing session.

In addition to showing torturous clips from her latest Food Network show, "How Easy Is That?," Garten discussed the process behind her many mouth-watering recipes.

I’m not a great cook but Iknow what people want to eat,” she explained.

She usually has “a flavor in my head and a texture” and will test recipes anywhere from 3-25 times until she gets that “little ping that says: that’s it!”

Garten admitted that, despite the title of her new show and eponymous book, cooking isn’t easy. Her motto may be “keep it simple,” but, she confessed: “if you think it’s easy to make things simple, it’s not.” She even daintily dropped the S-bomb a couple times when explaining how she has been known to mess up in the kitchen.

The route Garten took to becoming a famous cook wasn’t exactly simple either.

I never even expected to work,” Garten said. “What do you grow up to be if you’ve never thought about it?” she asked.

She spent four years as a budget analyst in the Ford White House but soon got frustrated.

I saw that nothing happens,” she said. “You’d work on a $20 billion budget and nothing happened.”

So when Garten saw an ad announcing that the Barefoot Contessa, a Hamptons specialty food store, was for sale, she jumped on it. Thirty-some years later, she is a best-selling author of seven cookbooks and a Food Network star. She even sanctioned Tina Fey’s request that she make a hilarious cameo of sorts on 30 Rock earlier this season.

Witchel asked Garten about how she got interested in food in the first place:

Many people choose professions to work out certain issues,” Garten said. Discussing her nutritionist mother, she quoted Julia Child: “I never knew a nutritionist who enjoys good food.” Garten’s mother “saw food as medicine: eat this, because it’s good for you. It never occurred to her that it could taste good…there were no potatoes, no sugar, no bread, no dessert.”

I think I was probably hungry when I was a kid,” Garten admitted. “But I’ve made up for it. I’m having a ball.”

[Image via The East Hampton Star]