'Barefoot Contessa' Comes to Fort Lauderdale

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Ina Garten, Food Network’s “The Barefoot Contessa,” pictured with husband Jeffrey, will appear at the Broward Center next week. Submitted photo.

The old adage goes “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”

Television personality and celebrity chef Ina Garten will discuss her latest cookbook, “Cooking for Jeffery”—her tenth—during a special appearance at the Broward Center on Thursday, Nov. 3.

“It takes two years to complete each book,” explained Garten in a telephone interview, “and each book follows a similar process.”

First, Garten develops a list of dishes she wishes to include and then puts together the recipes.

“I’m always changing that list, adding and taking [from] it,” she said in the same elegant and relaxed tone her dedicated viewers have come to know and trust.

She will prepare each dish three, four, or even 25 times, until the outcome consistently matches her expectations. Garten then hands off the recipe to her assistant who then also follows the recipe. This process can take a week for each recipe.

“She always comes up with questions I hadn’t considered,” added Garten.

Then Garten will serve that dish for a dinner party. Over the years, Garten’s cookbooks have focused on entertaining and become resources for avid hostesses and hosts.

“It’s one thing to make a recipe, but another thing when you also have to worry about setting the table, making cocktails and all the other preparations for a party,” she said.

Photography then takes another three to four weeks before Garten sits down with her editor to work on the text and then the designer for layout.

“I’m involved in the selection of every font and color and photograph and how it looks on the page,” she said, not surprisingly. “I’m quite involved in every detail.”

“Cooking for Jeffrey” is a culinary tribute to her husband of nearly 50 years and the book includes many stories about their romance and the dishes that have been special to them.

While she notes that many of her recipes may evolve slightly, she eschews the many “foodie” trends championed by restaurants that come and ultimately go.

“My taste hasn’t changed,” she said emphatically. “Maybe a recipe I made 18 years ago may need a tweak. Ingredients change, too, maybe for the better or the worse. Twenty years ago we didn’t have the beautiful heirloom tomatoes we can buy today.”

She remains an advocate of locally sourced ingredients, preferring to purchase vegetables from farmers’ markets and meats from local farms.

“We’re definitely finding more good ingredients and farmers’ markets are popping up everywhere. My cooking style hasn’t changed over the past 40 years, but the ingredients certainly have.”

Garten actually inherited the title, “The Barefoot Contessa,” the name of the gourmet shop and catering business she purchased in the Hamptons decades ago, but before embarking on a successful career in food, she actually worked as a budget analyst in the White House Office of Management and Budget during the Ford and Carter presidencies, where she worked on nuclear energy budget proposals and analysis.

She doesn’t claim to be “political,” saying she left Washington because of politics. She avoided an opportunity to speak about the heated presidential election season, only saying, “I’m glad there are smart people like the Obamas.”

Further, she worked on many $20- and $30 billion dollar programs and noticed “nothing changes.”

“I’ve found the food business much more satisfying,” she admitted. “Unlike government, it has changed.”

Her fans—LGBT and straight alike—are glad.

“Cooking for Jeffrey: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook,” Clarkson Potter Publishers, $35, is available on Amazon and other retailers. Ina Garten will appear at the Broward Center on Thursday, Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $39.50 at BrowardCenter.org.


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