Ina Garten said she used to think the 'Barefoot Contessa' was a 'terrible' name
- When she was 30,
Ina Gartengave up her White House job and bought the Barefoot Contessastore.
- Garten recently revealed that she actually didn't like the name at first and planned to change it.
Ina Garten has become synonymous with the "Barefoot Contessa," launching 12 cookbooks and a very successful
But Garten recently revealed that, at first, she hated the name.
"I actually thought it was a terrible name. Who calls a food store Barefoot Contessa?" she told MSNBC host Willie Geist during a virtual author luncheon benefiting Shelter Island Public Library on September 29.
Garten planned to choose a new name for the store after her first month, but by then she had already come around to the Barefoot Contessa.
"I actually liked the name because it's about being elegant and earthy," she said. "It would've been a terrible thing to change it."
Ina Garten said the name of the Barefoot Contessa store came from its original owner
"She had been called that when she was a kid after the movie with Ava Gardner," Garten recalled. "The family used to call her the Barefoot Contessa, it was her nickname."
The owner spent a month showing Garten how to run the store, seeing as she had zero experience.
Garten had been working at the White House - writing the nuclear energy budget for Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter's administrations - when she decided to leave DC behind and buy the New York store after seeing an ad for it in 1978.
"I made a low offer. I thought maybe it'll happen, maybe it won't," Garten recalled. "The owner said, 'Thanks very much, I accept your offer.' And I thought, 'Oh shit, I actually have to do this now.'"
"I'd never had somebody work for me, I'd never run a business," she added. "I'd made brownies for six friends, not 100. I had no idea how to do it."
Garten credits her husband Jeffrey with inspiring her to take the plunge and try something new.
"Jeffrey said, 'If you love it, you'll be really good at it,'" Garten previously told The New York Times' Sam Sifton. "And that's the best advice anybody ever gave me."
Garten began working 18-hour days to turn Barefoot Contessa into a success
The future Food Network star said she wanted to make sure her store was always a "fun place to go."
"There were always good smells in the store," Garten recalled to Geist. "In the winter we'd have hot apple cider on the burner so you could help yourself. I always made sure there was great music. I'd love when people would come in and Frank Sinatra was on and people would just dance in the store."
"I think the key is that I really loved doing it," she added. "And, because I loved it, I would be at the store until 8 o'clock at night."
Garten ran the Barefoot Contessa store for 18 years - eventually moving it from Westhampton Beach to a bigger location in East Hampton - before she sold it to two of her employees in 1996.
Three years later, Garten published her first cookbook with recipes from her store. Then, Food Network came calling.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
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