If you really know Ina Garten, you know that she worked in the White House in the 1970s and left her government job for a more fulfilling career in food. It didn’t take long for her to establish herself as the Barefoot Contessa, a talented cook and host with cookbook and television deals flooding in. But where exactly did that name come from? The culinary queen herself finally explained it in her own words in a recent post on her website.
Ina wrote, “So many people ask, ‘What does Barefoot Contessa mean?’ It was the original name of my specialty food store after a movie with Ava Gardner and Humphrey Bogart. But for me, it means being both elegant and earthy, which is exactly what I love about these Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs.” Leave it to Ina Garten to explain her brand and weave in a delightful-sounding recipe in the same sentence!
The movie she’s referring to is a 1954 drama called – you guessed it – The Barefoot Contessa. Ina left her White House job in 1978 after spotting an ad for a specialty food store in Westhampton, whose original owner named it after the film. Excited by the idea of taking ownership and kickstarting a cooking-focused career, she and Jeffrey made an offer on the spot and moved to New York; they decided not to change the name. Decades later, the store no longer exists (Ina passed on ownership in the ’90s), but one of Food Network’s most beloved icons has upheld her nickname.
Personally, I feel forever indebted to Ina for switching careers and pursuing her passion. Countless Barefoot Contessa episodes and “How easy is that?” remarks later, I’ve been too distracted by her valuable cooking lessons and comforting charm to care much about the meaning behind her persona. But now we know for sure!