Ina Garten Celebrates 45 Years Since Opening The Barefoot Contessa

In the culinary world, few names are beloved and revered as Ina Garten, the renowned chef, author, and television personality. This year, she is celebrating the would-be 45th anniversary of her legendary specialty food store, The Barefoot Contessa. In 1978, Garten, armed with a passion for cooking and a discerning palate, purchased a small specialty food store in Westhampton Beach, New York, named "Barefoot Contessa," a reference to the classic film starring Ava Gardner and Humphrey Bogart.

As Garten recalled on a recent Instagram post, first-day sales were less than stellar, prompting her husband — the famed Jeffrey her fans know well — to predict long-term failure. But she persevered, and under Garten's guidance, The Barefoot Contessa quickly gained a reputation as a culinary haven for food enthusiasts. With her keen eye for quality and dedication to sourcing the finest ingredients, the store became synonymous with excellence.

Over the years, The Barefoot Contessa store — the brick-and-mortar location and its online counterpart — expanded its offerings to include not just gourmet ingredients but also a carefully curated selection of cookware, tableware, and cookbooks. Of course, most people know Garten from her cooking show, also called "The Barefoot Contessa," a showcase for her approachable, simple, yet elegant cooking style that has attracted a loyal following of home cooks.

A big change for a lasting impact

Garten's path is an unlikely one. She did not attend culinary school or work her way through the kitchens of celebrated restaurants. Rather, she was a nuclear energy expert who wrote policy while working in the White House Office of Management and Budget in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. While she was a capable expert who enjoyed the work, she says that it didn't reflect her true spirit and nature. So, she decided to take a gamble and explore her interest in food, which she cultivated while camping across Europe with her husband.

The store was a quick hit with food fans, and Garten eventually moved it from the seasonal resort town of Westhampton Beach to the more-settled East Hampton, New York, selling upscale and hard-to-find-ingredients, cookware and tools, prepared foods, and even offering catering. In 1996, she sold the store to two of her employees as she looked to the next stage of her life. Garten retained and grew her website, Barefoot Contessa, through which she sold items similar to those found in the store, which finally closed its doors in 2003.

It was around this time that Garten's show premiered on Food Network, sharing with a nationwide audience her philosophy of warm hospitality and satisfying cooking that she cultivated at her store. Though you may not be able to walk into The Barefoot Contessa anymore, it has left an indelible mark on the culinary landscape.