Ina Garten Talks Business Success

Photo credit: Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

Aka “Barefoot Contessa” urges: ‘pick what you love’

In an informal, conversational-style setting, Ina Garten shared her remarkable entrepreneurship story with a large gathering of her fans.

More than 500 people turned out at the University of Missouri-Kansas City to hear what tips the self-created entrepreneur, “The Barefoot Contessa,” would share with those who wish to follow in her footsteps or just learn a bit more about her.

Mary Bloch, who shares Garten’s penchant for food and wine, interviewed Garten about the “hows and whys” of her venture into the food industry. Bloch writes a food and cooking blog, Around the Block; contributes to the Kansas City Star’s Food section and websites for Sally’s Place and the Kansas City Convention and Visitor’s Bureau; and serves as a regular panelist on “The Food Critics” segments on KCUR-FM.

In 1978, Garten worked on nuclear energy policy in the White House when she said – “There’s got to be more to life than this.” Garten saw a small food store for sale in a place she’d never been: the Hamptons at the end of Long Island. She made an offer and much to her surprise, the offer was accepted.

Thus began her journey into the industry that would make “Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa” a household name.

“At 30, I was an analyst and realized that was not me,” said Garten. “I loved to cook, and I wanted to be in business. I chose what I loved and didn’t worry about the money. I didn’t know anything about running a business or cooking on this level, but I would just jump off the cliff and learn how to fly on my way down.”

That was the essence of her advice to her audience: “follow your passion, don’t analyze too much, follow what’s interesting to you and let it happen.”

During this period, Garten learned to cater through trial and error. When first asked, she immediately agreed. After speaking with her mom, figured out how to cook poached salmon for 40 people – at the dinner party. The tension-filled gig led Garten to catering on a larger scale – one for which she’s well-known.

In 1999, Garten wrote her first book, “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook,” which was one of the best-selling cookbooks of the year. She has published a total of eight books during her career, the books continue her style of “cooking with easy, delicious, and foolproof recipes that you can make at home.”

Throughout the evening, Garten stressed her love of simple recipes for herself and her audiences.

“For my books, I would search for recipes that I could use – inspired by the old flavors and striving to unlock the taste of the ingredient so they would taste more like themselves. I have always been intrigued by the use of flavors and texture in my recipes. But I kept them simple.”

The challenge Garten initially shied away from, having rejected it several times, was cooking on TV’s Food Network.

After agreeing to do only 13 shows, Garten has served as host of Barefoot Contessa on Food Network since 2002. In 2009, she won her first Emmy for the Best Culinary Host.

Garten has been a columnist for Martha Stewart Living magazine, O, the Oprah magazine and House Beautiful magazine.

|Wandra Brooks Green, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications


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