Ina Garten's Thanksgiving Story Shows Why Her Hamptons Store Was A Success

Ina Garten's journey to culinary stardom was a winding one. In some ways, it began in Stamford, Connecticut, where The Washington Post reports she was raised. Garten described her childhood meals as fairly bland, consisting mostly of canned vegetables and boiled chicken. At age 15 Garten met her husband Jeffrey, who she married in 1968. Briefly employed by the State Department in Washington D.C. writing nuclear codes, per Insider, in 1978 Garten decided to leave politics behind to run a specialty food store in the Hamptons, New York — Barefoot Contessa.

That Hamptons store was Garten's springboard to success: She's since written 13 cookbooks, has taken home seven Emmys, and garnered three James Beard awards, according to CBS News. An impressive feat — especially for someone who got into the culinary game later in life than many others — in an interview with 60 Minutes Garten shares a story about one particularly chilly Thanksgiving when she was still cooking up catered meals at Barefoot Contessa, which illustrates perfectly the dedication and drive that propelled her from a 400-square-foot food store in Westhampton Beach to the foodie icon she is today.

How Ina Garten kept the turkeys warm

Garten's Thanksgiving story, which she revealed in a 60 Minutes interview with Sharyn Alfonsi, centers on her specialty foods store in the Hamptons, which was popular for catering special events and holidays like Thanksgiving.

"Every year we would pack up the [Thanksgiving] orders Wednesday night so that people could come in on Thursday morning, and I would use the van out next to the store as a refrigerator," Garten told 60 Minutes. "One year it was like 33 degrees when I was going home, and I thought: 'No one wants a frozen Thanksgiving dinner.' So I drove the van home, and I set my alarm for every single hour all night — to turn the heat on for a few minutes and then go back to sleep. To keep the turkeys warm."

So that's the answer: Hard work. Garten revealed in an Instagram post in 2021 that the store took in $87 on her first day. That soon changed, however. Per House Beautiful, the store moved to larger digs in East Hampton in the 1980s. According to CBS News, Garten was putting in 20-hour days at the store, which she finally sold in 1996 after turning it into a success. The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook was published in 1999 (via Barefoot Contessa). And the rest, as they say, is history.