The Reason Ina Garten Doesn't Prefer Making Fancy Meals At Home

There are few culinary icons that home cooks look to with as much faith and dependability as Ina Garten. The celebrity chef and television personality has built her career on the platform of making good food accessible to non-professionals — a philosophy the Barefoot Contessa follows in her kitchen. As Garten herself once put it, "Food is not about impressing people. It's about making them feel comfortable."

It would only make sense that this mantra applies when Garten is drafting the menu for her dinner parties or meal planning for the week. You won't find overly complex dishes like Bouillabaisse or duck confit on her table, the cook tells Food & Wine. "I love to order them in restaurants. [But] if I spent two days making dinner for my guests, and they eat it in two hours, they can't possibly appreciate it enough," says Garten. "I like to make really simple, absolutely delicious food that takes a couple hours to make, and I'm not crying and exhausted and sweating."

Indeed, her oeuvre of cookbooks –to date, Garten has published a whopping 13 of them — focuses on simple-yet-elevated tried-and-true dinner recipes that showcase quality ingredients over fancy cooking techniques.

Don't overcomplicate things and have a good time

If you can't make a dish relatively easily at home, says Garten, save it for the pros and go enjoy it at a restaurant. If you'd rather not go to a restaurant, your guests will be more than happy with whatever meal you whip up and share together. This advice takes on an entirely new gravity with the return to dinner parties post-pandemic. Many home cooks brushed up on their culinary skills during lockdown, following viral trends like banana bread and sourdough, and generally having the time to try making meals from scratch. Garten herself accrued a massive Instagram following for her daily posts during the pandemic, giving foodies inspiration while gaining the cook 4 million followers.

Now, her dinner advice becomes especially useful as steep inflation makes restaurants less accessible for many foodies nationwide, further encouraging the resurgence of at-home entertaining. Earlier this month, CNN Business reported that even as food prices remain high, by-volume grocery sales are still up compared to 2019 — which means people are passing up on dining out and cooking at home instead. So whether you're cooking for yourself or for a crowd, keep it simple and above all, enjoy. As Garten wisely prescribes, "The most important thing for having a party is that the hostess is having fun."