20 Best Moments From Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa

Ina Garten's "Be My Guest" series on the Food Network is focused on the chef having down-to-earth chats with celebrity guest stars while preparing meals, but it was "Barefoot Contessa" where she first captured the attention of television viewers. Everyone needs to be reminded to take it easy every now and again, and "Barefoot Contessa" produced nearly 30 seasons giving viewers a guide to staying cool under the pressure of preparing meals for others. Running from 2002-2021, the series embraced the virtues of taking time and enjoying the process, not just the end result.

Garten's approach to cooking for others while not sacrificing quality time with friends made her something of a patron saint for casual and professional cooks alike. In the process, getting stomachs growling and kitchen creativity brewing became Garten's stock and trade. Here are some of the most unforgettable moments from "Barefoot Contessa," those that made her a household name.

Barefoot in Los Angeles (Season 19, Episode 6)

Taking a trip to L.A., Garten prepares meals with Jennifer Garner, Carnie and Wendy Wilson, and fellow celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck before being visited in the Hamptons by Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka. The star-studded episode is busy with big names, and even busier with recipes. 

While it's hard to choose a best moment, among the most heartwarming is her breezy connection with Puck as he invites her into his kitchen to chat about food. The Wilson sisters, meanwhile, talk Garten through the importance of cooking when it comes to winding down from tour, and Burtka and Harris cook for Garten in her home. A favorite moment, however, has to be Garner enjoying chocolate crisps with Garten to celebrate her birthday.

Mary Poppins Show (Season 15, Episode 8)

Those who caught Garten's recent episode of "Be My Guest" with Emily Blunt may have found themselves wishing they could get more of their fun kitchen dynamic; this "Barefoot Contessa" episode can fill that need. Not only does the episode feature Blunt, but also actor/songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda and Blunt's fellow "Be My Guest" alum, director Rob Marshall and producer John DeLuca.

When it comes to star-studded episodes, this is a big one, but the sense of cooking camaraderie is what makes it so memorable. With Marshall and DeLuca retrieving table decorations, Miranda making gimlets, and Blunt roasting potatoes, seeing the group working in the kitchen and enjoying their labors as friends is a cooking show all-timer.

Pooch Party (Season 7, Episode 7)

When her friends Joey and Maureen inform her that their dog Theo is celebrating a birthday, Ina takes the opportunity to throw a whole pooch party on the beach with her many pup-owning friends and neighbors. While planning to gift the four-legged friends with gourmet treats, the humans have their own celebration — complete with grilled sausages, potato salad, and sea breeze cocktails.

After taking viewers through every step of the cooking process, Ina enjoys a breezy, sunny day at the beach, surrounded by happy doggos and their doting owners. As the pups munch on their biscuits, the gathering of friends enjoy Ina's gorgeous chocolate cake, complete with dog-shaped cookies on top.

Barefoot in Washington (Season 10, Episode 10)

Before she changed culinary television forever, Garten worked at the White House's Office of Management and Budget. Taking a trip to D.C. for this episode, she notes that the city has gone from basic cuisine to being a bona fide food city. Garten illustrates this by visiting former Barefoot Contessa shop employee Bettina Stern's vegetarian taco restaurant Chaia, founded with Suzanne Simon.

This is another episode jam-packed with memorable moments, but sitting down with Michelle Obama is a pretty big deal. Garten inquires about the kitchen garden that Michelle started in 2009. Obama replies that she can't take all the credit, indicating the larger team that keeps it running smoothly. This blossoms into talk of Obama's work changing the national conversation around health.

Jeffrey's Faves (Season 18, Episode 3)

Though he doesn't appear in every episode, it's safe to say that Ina's husband Jeffrey was the most consistent recurring guest star in the series. "Barefoot Contessa" is rife with adorable moments featuring the two of them, and that only seemed to increase in later seasons. 

In "Jeffrey's Faves," Garten does a round-up of her husband's favorite meals. The list is nothing short of enticing, with fried chicken sandwiches on the menu, alongside salmon cured with dill and Pernod, and coffee chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches. The episode's best moment, however, might be when Jeffrey talks Ina through his coffee-making process. This allows for a collaboration between the two, as Ina takes the prepared java and turns it into Italian iced coffee.

Store-Bought is Fine (Season 17, Episode 1)

Despite a tendency to prepare foods from scratch, "store-bought is fine" is a phrase for which the Barefoot Contessa is well known. Introducing this episode as one that will utilize ingredients off grocery store shelves, Garten immediately plays up the episode's title. 

"Yes, from time to time, store-bought is just fine," she says knowingly. Ina puts that assertion to the test by preparing Raspberry Baked Alaska, Roasted Eggplant Parmesan, Turkey Sandwiches with Brussels Sprout Slaw, and Sweet Red Pepper Hummus.

Garten explains the meaning behind "store-bought is fine," noting that it's not great to buy a cake and pass it off as your own, but that utilizing some store-bought ingredients can save time in the kitchen without compromising taste.

Friends of Friends (Season 10, Episode 7)

Ina's friend Michael plans to host a group of foodie friends, so he proposes that he and Ina welcome them with a get-together. Of course, she's game. Soon, Ina is preparing the food, and it's up to Michael to host the party. 

Garten cooks to impress as always, making Meringues Chantilly, Roasted Striped Bass, and Couscous with Pine Nuts. Arriving with a cooler in tow, Garten completes the meal preparation just in time for the guests to arrive.

With Ina's attention to detail on lock, Michael impresses by arranging seats according to each guest's favorite flower. Everyone shares their favorite meals to cook, with the guests noting that they use Ina's recipes. Everyone digs into the meal, with Ina quipping "Don't have any fun without me!" as she retrieves dessert.

Fearless Food (Season 13, Episode 4)

Fans of Ina Garten frequently cite the unflappable ease with which she seemingly cooks all these amazing dishes as a reason she is so beloved; this is why "Fearless Food" stands out. Intentionally choosing foods that seem too complicated or eccentric to pull off, Garten helps viewers face their kitchen fears while staring down a few of her own. Sharing her methods for making Salted Caramel Nuts, Souffle a L'orange, and Anna's Tomato Tart, the focus here is on figuring out how to pull off "scary" foods without breaking a sweat.

Fellow celebrity chef José Andrés makes an appearance to offer his own advice. He teaches Ina and the audience his trick for separating eggs. It's the sort of brilliant move that, once you figure it out, you'll wonder how you managed before.

Romantic Breakfast (Season 1, Episode 10)

Ina kicks off this early episode by announcing that weekend nights usually entail Chinese takeout, but this time she plans to surprise Jeffrey with his all-time favorite meal for dinner — breakfast. 

While she plans to serve Challah French Toast and hash browns, she quips that it doesn't mean she has to drink coffee and orange juice. No, this breakfast comes with champagne. Cooking breakfast foods while setting a romantic, candlelit table makes for a fun episode, and it all comes together adorably once Jeffrey arrives.

The two of them enjoy a drink together, with Jeffrey saying that it's "habit-forming" and might now want this meal every Sunday. The setting makes it feel not quite like breakfast, even with all the same foods typically found on the table in the morning. The two have a romantic dinner, passing the syrup between them.

Cooking with Friends (Season 6, Episode 3)

This episode begins with a little backstory, as Ina explains that she was having breakfast with her friends Eli Zabar and David Ziff when they realized that the meal was so fun that they should keep the ball rolling and meet for dinner as well. Changing up the rules of the game, they each assign themselves one course to prepare, choosing a Mediterranean theme for inspiration. Together, they prepare a meal consisting of Grilled Eggplant with Sherry Vinegar Drizzle, Fried Baby Artichokes, Eli's Grilled Rib Eye Steak, and Italian Plum Tart.

The light-hearted connection between these friends is endlessly endearing, as is watching them each tackle their own individual dish, which adds a little excitement to what might have otherwise been a standard episode. The three cheer each other on, adding a great sense of camaraderie to the episode's meal preparations.

Miguel While You Were Out (Season 6, Episode 1)

Ina's friend, former magazine editor and current photographer Miguel Florres-Vianna, swings by Garten's Hamptons home to take photos of her garden. Naturally, while he's keeping himself busy with work, Garten takes the time to create an amazing meal. She makes Chicken Noodle Soup to send in a thermos when he leaves, as well as Panko-Crusted Salmon, Lentils, and an All-American Cheese Board.

What isn't revealed until later in the episode is that while Garten was preparing the food, Miguel was creating a beautiful table setting inspired by the foliage. The two spend most of the episode in different parts of the estate, making it particularly satisfying when they finally sit down across from one another to eat and chat. 

Training Day Dinner (Season 7, Episode 1)

While many episodes of "Barefoot Contessa" are about creating good food and a nice atmosphere for family and friends, Garten has always been eager to offer her services to charitable events as well. "Training Day Dinner" follows her as she teams up with local chef Joe Realmuto from Townline BBQ to prepare a meal to feed East Hampton ambulance volunteers. Garten informs the viewers that there are over fifty volunteers, all dedicated to helping in emergencies.

Garten makes pear and cranberry crostata while Realmuto prepares BBQ ribs, but the best part is when volunteer Sandy walks Garten through a family recipe for potato salad. Discussing how much work goes into it makes the enormous meal seem particularly satisfying.

Friday Night Dinner (Season 5, Episode 2)

With Jeffrey set to embark on a three-and-a-half-hour drive home for the weekend, Ina notes that she always makes him a roast chicken. This time, she changes things up a bit and sets out to make a traditional Jewish dinner. She prepares Rugelach, Sautéed Spinach, Chopped Liver, and Brisket with Carrots and Onions. It's a success, as Jeffrey remarks, "This may be my new favorite meal."

Watching Ina pull this meal off is a lot of fun, but, of course, the two sharing the dinner is the best part. "I want to make sure you're always happy to come home Friday nights," she says. As they clink their glasses together, he replies, "You're doing a great job."

Memory Lane (Season 9, Episode 4)

Looking back on her relationship with Jeffrey, which dates back to when they were in high school, Garten curates a selection of meals based on their many years together. First up, she shares a story about their early days, saying she used to send him boxes of brownies. "It's the culinary equivalent to a low-cut dress," she jokes. "I guess it worked; we've been married for over forty years."

Quite literally pulling out an old shoebox of photographs, Ina continues to reminisce about their early years together, well before the Barefoot Contessa was even an idea. Ina remembers she's still got brownies in the oven and moves onto the next part of the meal, wondering if Jeffrey will guess what she's up to. He does!

Remembered Flavors (Season 19, Episode 3)

Encompassing the theme of "modern comfort food," this episode has Garten recreating and modernizing meals from her childhood, as well as the early days of her marriage to Jeffrey. These savory classics include Lamb Stew with Spring Vegetables, Split Pea Soup with Crispy Kielbasa, Spicy Pimento Cheese Spread, and Raspberry Mini Corn Muffins. Throughout, she shares some of her many memories around these meals, making it a low-key episode that tells viewers more about Ina's interests.

Once the food has been prepared, Garten tries her Spicy Pimento Cheese Spread, and is surprised as the layers of flavor continue to unfold while she's plating the food. Surprised by the complexity of her own classic recipes, it illustrates how a person's tastes evolve over time.

Cook With a Pro (Season 4, Episode 7)

One of the great joys of watching "Barefoot Contessa" has always been Garten's willingness to learn from others. This episode has her bringing in three different talented chefs — Manhattan-based pastry chef Natasha Pickowicz, Brooklyn-based Italian restaurant owner Missy Robbins, and New York-based Parisian chef Marie-Aude Rose — and kicking off the episode by asking Natasha "Do you want to put me to work?"

That simple question acts as a jumping-off point, and from there the episode takes a laid-back approach to the simple concept of picking the brain of a trusted expert in their field. Ina's lightly self-deprecating humor is on full display, and every dish comes out looking nothing short of perfect. This one is worth watching all the way through, but seeing Garten learn the specifics of plating Fettuccine from Missy is a particularly delight.

Cocktails for a Crowd (Season 10, Episode 1)

Tasked with throwing a garden party that doubles as a fundraiser for the East Hampton Historical Society, the focus for this episode is on creating light but satisfying food for a lot of guests. Garten rises to the challenge, whipping up Roasted Shrimp Cocktail, Carmelized Bacon, Smoked Chicken, Potato Basil Frittatas, almonds with sea salt, and batch Champagne cocktails. Yet, the most valuable information offered in this episode might just be the store-bought shortcuts and her strategy for managing party invitations.

Garten makes plans to assign small tasks to some of the guests to encourage involvement in the event, showing the sleight of hand that makes her a world-renowned host. Watching everyone enjoy their food in her gorgeous garden is a special treat.

Weekend Guest (Season 12, Episode 8)

Part of the "Cooking for Jeffrey" series, in this episode the Gartens invite their dear friend, photographer Miguel Florres-Vianna, to stay for the weekend. This allows Ina to break things down into meals for different times of day, preparing Hermit Bars for his arrival on Friday night, a Zucchini and Goat Cheese Tart for lunch on Saturday, and wrapping it up with an easy Tomato Carpaccio.

While Jeffrey and Miguel have fun taking photos for a "Barefoot Contessa" style book, Ina walks the viewer through recipes she's preparing. Jeffrey helps Miguel create photographic magic outdoors as their easy friendship is on display, and his excitement in discussing an art piece that Miguel then photographs makes for a fitting coda for the episode.

Mystery Guest (Season 9, Episode 7)

Ina's friend, Broadway producer Susan Stroman, is coming to dinner. The catch? She's bringing a "mystery guest." 

Not knowing for sure who will be coming along, Ina prepares a meal that she believes will wow anyone. Garten makes Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup, Blini with Smoked Salmon, and Parmesan Chicken, noting that she prefers to prepare everything as early as possible to avoid last-minute scrambling.

So, who is the mystery guest? None other than entertainment legend Mel Brooks. It's a lot of fun watching Ina and Jeffrey attempt to guess at the identity as a pair of shoes approach the door from outside. Brooks appears alongside Susan in the final minutes of the episode, clearly relishing the meal.

Going Local (Season 4, Episode 2)

While writing an article on the importance of shopping local, Ina challenges herself to create a meal entirely from locally-sourced Hamptons ingredients. The menu consists of Eggplant Caponata (using produce from a nearby farm), catch-of-the-day Bass with a Caesar-inspired sauce, and fresh Peach Cake (with fruit from the farmers' market and local eggs). While it doesn't come as a huge surprise that Ina pulls off the challenge, it's a lot of fun to watch as she explains the process.

While cooking her fish, Garten explains that the bass was caught earlier by local fishermen. The show cuts to a video, where they explain who they are and how they caught the fish. That sense of community, even at a distance, is what makes this moment so special.