Ina Garten Is Looking Back On 20 Years Of The Barefoot Contessa

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It's incredible to believe that Ina Garten has graced our televisions for 20 years. According to Barefoot Contessa lore,  Garten purchased a specialty market in the Hamptons in 1978, while working as a budget analyst in Washington, D.C. At the time, she had zero professional food experience. She explains to The Cut, boredom set in at her day job so when she saw an ad selling the Westhampton market, she jumped at the chance to shake things up. On her blog, Garten explains she named her new business after the Humphrey Bogart/Ava Gardner film "The Barefoot Contessa," writing, "for me, it means being both elegant and earthy."

The food Garten originally made for Barefoot Contessa was anything but earthy, which is hard to believe since she's made her career by demystifying cooking, encouraging the use of store-bought ingredients to simplify recipes. She shared with The Cut that her original store menu featured "all these complicated things, veal stuffed with prunes and Armagnac," admitting, "Nobody bought it. And then I started making roast chicken and roast carrots, and that's what sold."

Garten sold her market in 1996, but not because she was chasing a television deal; quite the opposite. Insider reports that Food Network approached Garten to do a show back in 1999, after the release of her first cookbook, "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook." But, she turned them down, and continued to for several years, believing she could never do television.

The Barefoot Contessa turns 20

Ina Garten told People she credits Martha Stewart with preparing her for a career in front of the camera. She did a few guest segments on Stewart's eponymous show before, ultimately, giving into the Food Network and agreeing to give "Barefoot Contessa" a try. Stewart's confidence in front of the camera rubbed off on Garten, which she emulated in her appearances. Still, Garten is a reluctant celebrity, telling the magazine that fame was never the goal; rather it was doing something that she loved, surrounded by the people who mattered most.

Garten recently took to Instagram to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the very first taping of "Barefoot Contessa" by posting a clip from that inaugural episode: "The Mediterranean Feast." According to Food Network, the menu featured grilled lamb, tabbouleh, hummus, and pita bread. Garten made homemade lemonade to wash it down, which she shared in the Instagram clip. Even back then, she was a cocktail advocate, telling viewers that lemonade mixes well with vodka.

Cheers to you, Ina!