Where The Name 'Barefoot Contessa' Came From

Besides being recognized for her delectable dishes, Food Network chef Ina Garten is also known for her nickname "Barefoot Contessa,'" a label that may leave many wondering where the origin came from. To understand where Garten got the moniker that eventually became more than just a name, but part of an identity that became a global brand, it's important to go back to how she got her start in the food business.

Her career in the culinary industry began over 40 years ago, when Garten bought a food store in East Hampton, New York in 1978, per Epicurious. As noted in the article, Garten had no experience in the food industry, or even in business, when she bought the store. At the time, she was working for the White House as a nuclear energy budget analyst, when she saw a newspaper ad that would change the trajectory of her life, as detailed by Vox.

A food store with an unusual name

According to the Barefoot Contessa's website, Garten responded to an ad in the New York Times that was advertising the sale of a food store in the Hamptons. Garten further explained that she and her husband, Jeffrey, drove to Long Island the next day to look at the store, called Barefoot Contessa Fine Foods, and she instantly fell in love with the space. After purchasing the store, Garten went through a phase of not liking the name, as explained by Insider.

The article further recounts that the original owner of the shop named it after a 1950s movie that starred Ava Gardner and Humphrey Bogart. As the Insider article details, Garten planned to choose a new name for the store, but after a month, the moniker had grown on her. As reported by Southern Living, she has been quoted saying she believes the name "means being both elegant and earthy," which can also describe Garten's style of cooking. Looking back, perhaps the decision to keep the store's original name was an act of fate, since it would be hard to imagine a world where the Barefoot Contessa nickname didn't exist.