Jan 3, 2023

Ina Garten The 60 Minutes Interview Transcript

Ina Garten The 60 Minutes Interview Transcript
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Sharyn Alfonsi speaks with the “Barefoot Contessa” about her journey to becoming one of the country’s most beloved cooks. Read the transcript here.

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John Wortham (00:01):

Good evening. I’m John Wortham. Welcome to 60 Minutes Presents. In this season of celebration, we have three stories that offer opportunities to eat, drink and be merry. We’ll enjoy a pint or two in the storied pubs of England and be entertained by a virtuoso of an African instrument seldom heard on this continent, but we begin tonight’s menu with a visit with Ina Garten, one of the most beloved cooks in the country, known as the Barefoot Contessa. Her cookbooks have sold millions of copies. Her weekly television show has run for two decades, earned seven Emmy’s, three James Beard Awards and millions of devoted fans, who tune in as much for the cooking lesson as the cocktail party that typically follows and when Sharyn Alfonsi first met her in October, we learned that Ina Garten isn’t quite as freewheeling as you might think. As impressive as her culinary chops may be, Ina Garten success hinges on hard work, shrewd business sense and leaving nothing to chance.

Speaker 2 (01:01):

The story will continue in a moment.

Ina Garten (01:06):

This is just a great weeknight meal. It’s so easy to do. Do the first stage, have yourself a glass of wine, do the second stage and dinner’s ready.

Sharyn Alfonsi (01:16):

Whether she’s whipping up one of her signature chicken dishes, slinging cosmos for her real life friends or scooping ice cream, Ina Garten is a calming presence in the kitchen, taking the mystery out of cooking.

Ina Garten (01:30):

How easy is that?

Sharyn Alfonsi (01:31):

She’s built a culinary empire by making it all look effortless.

Ina Garten (01:35):

I know people don’t believe this, but I’m really a nervous cook and I’m sure every recipe’s going to turn out wrong, so I’m incredibly precise.

Sharyn Alfonsi (01:43):

Even now?

Ina Garten (01:44):

Even now. I’m there with a cookbook going, is it a half a teaspoon or a whole teaspoon?

Sharyn Alfonsi (01:48):

Are you really?

Ina Garten (01:48):

I follow my own recipes exactly because I’ve spent so much time getting the balance of flavors and textures and everything right. I’m really not a confident cook.

Sharyn Alfonsi (01:58):

I would think that you were swigging wine and-

Ina Garten (02:04):

Let’s keep that image going. This is my commute to work.

Sharyn Alfonsi (02:09):

Oh, awful for you. At 74, the image of Ina Garten with her denim shirt, chique scarves and signature bob, is as reliable as the tried and true recipes she’s built her reputation on. Those recipes are a roadmap for home cooks from a home cook.

Ina Garten (02:27):

People like Bobby Flay have worked in restaurant kitchens all his life and he can just throw things together. I’ve watched him. He’s such a brilliant cook. I’m not that person. I didn’t have that experience.

Sharyn Alfonsi (02:38):

When you say you’re testing and testing yourself at first. How many times do you have to make something before you get it right?

Ina Garten (02:44):

Sometimes 10 times, sometimes 25 times and then I’ll print out a page and give it to one of my assistants and watch them make it. It so surprises me what people do. I was making lentil salad, form French lentils and she was putting garlic in it. I said, “What are you doing?” She said, “Well, it said cloves, cloves of garlic in it.” I was like, no, it’s cloves. Not cloves of garlic. I thought, I never would’ve made that mistake but somebody else at home is going to make that mistake, so I just want you to feel like I’m right there beside you just guiding you through the recipe. This is the secret garden. Oh, don’t tell anybody about it.

Sharyn Alfonsi (03:26):

Garten has been guiding viewers from her home in East Hampton, New York for 20 years.

Ina Garten (03:32):

I love these tomatoes.

Sharyn Alfonsi (03:33):

Do you really do the gardening?

Ina Garten (03:35):

Well, I point. Yes.

Sharyn Alfonsi (03:39):

It may seem like she grew out of the rich Long Island soil. She did not. Born in Brooklyn, New York, Ina Rosenberg grew up in Stanford, Connecticut. Her dad was a doctor, her mom, a dietician. As a teenager, she was instructed to stay out of the kitchen and excel in school. She did both. She met her future husband, Jeffrey Garten while she was 16 years old and four years later they were married. Jeffrey, a lieutenant in the 82nd Airborne, later took her backpacking through France. She came home with an ambitious mission.

Ina Garten (04:14):

I got Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and I just worked my way through those books, which were very complicated recipes. There were ingredients in each recipe, that was another recipe in itself and I loved that challenge.

Sharyn Alfonsi (04:27):

You never went to cooking school?

Ina Garten (04:29):

Never went to cooking school.

Sharyn Alfonsi (04:30):

Was Julia Child’s book your cooking School?

Ina Garten (04:33):

Julia Child was my cooking school. Yeah. Exactly.

Sharyn Alfonsi (04:36):

Her actual degree was an economics. At 26, she had a job at the White House analyzing nuclear energy policy for the Ford Administration. Jeffrey worked around the corner at the State Department. Each weekend Ina says, they devote their time to less bureaucratic pursuits, like making a great dinner party looks simple.

Ina Garten (04:57):

To this day, I never made something for a dinner party I hadn’t made several times. On Monday I would make the roast leg of lamb with tomatoes with duxelles, which are finely minced mushrooms, for Jeffrey for dinner.

Sharyn Alfonsi (05:12):

Lucky man.

Ina Garten (05:13):

Then I’d make it again on Wednesday and then by Saturday I knew how to make it and the poor guy would go, oh, this is delicious. What is this?

Sharyn Alfonsi (05:21):

After a thousand dinner parties and two administrations, at 30 years old, Ina had burned out of life inside the Beltway. In 1978, she saw this ad in the back of the New York Times for a 400 square foot specialty food store in West Hampton, New York, called the Barefoot Contessa.

You had never been to the Hamptons. You didn’t know anything about running a store.

Ina Garten (05:45):

I knew how to make 12 brownies for my friends, but I certainly didn’t know how to make 100 brownies. I didn’t even know how to cash out the register or slice smoked salmon. To me Brie was like a foreign language.

Sharyn Alfonsi (05:56):

Was it confidence that allowed you to do that or was it that you were being naive?

Ina Garten (06:01):

I have a very low threshold of boredom and I was really bored with my job and I just thought, this is really exciting. This is what I do for fun and now I can do it professionally. I just thought, I’m just going to jump in thinking, well, how hard could this be? Oh my God.

Sharyn Alfonsi (06:20):

It was really hard. The Garten’s say they double mortgaged their house. Ina told us she was working 20 hours a day to keep up with the crowds who came to gawk at the goods and load up on lobster salad. Soon she opened a bigger shop in East Hampton.

Ina Garten (06:35):

It’s very deliberate. I was always doing research. It looked like I was just having a good time wandering around having a party, but it was all careful and deliberate.

Sharyn Alfonsi (06:45):

A calculating business woman, Ina Garten elevated the food scene and soon had finicky Hampton’s clientele falling over themselves to have the Barefoot Contessa cater their weddings or Thanksgiving.

Ina Garten (06:59):

Every year we would pack up the orders Wednesday night so people could come in Thursday morning and I would use the van next to the store as a refrigerator. One year it was like 33 degrees when I was going home and I thought nobody wants a frozen Thanksgiving dinner, so I drove the van home and I set my alarm for every single hour, all night, to turn the heat on for a few minutes and then go back to sleep.

Sharyn Alfonsi (07:26):

To keep the turkeys warm.

Ina Garten (07:28):

Well, the turkeys were roasted in the morning, but the vegetables and the sides and all that stuff.

Sharyn Alfonsi (07:32):

After 18 years, Garten decided to sell the Barefoot Contessa in 1996.

Ina Garten (07:38):

One minute I’m making 1,000 baguettes and the next minute I have nothing, I mean nothing to do.

Sharyn Alfonsi (07:43):

How was that?

Ina Garten (07:43):

It was horrible. I thought, you know, I’m 50. Maybe that’s the end of my career.

Sharyn Alfonsi (07:49):

Hardly. The lull lasted nine months before Garten started writing the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, the first of 13 cookbooks, 10 of which have become New York Times bestsellers. Crushing big name chefs by remembering the lessons learned at her specialty food shop.

Ina Garten (08:05):

I realized later what I knew was what people wanted to eat at home, which was roast chicken and roast carrots and chocolate cake and coconut cupcakes and things that I knew from the store people bought and took home.

Sharyn Alfonsi (08:17):

You weren’t trying to say, here’s everything I know. You were saying, here’s what you need to know.

Ina Garten (08:21):

Yeah. Here’s what will make you happy at home.

Sharyn Alfonsi (08:24):

Her latest cookbook, Go-to Dinners, was inspired by the Pandemic and again, Ina is in every detail.

One of the things about the book that is not by accident is that you can put it on the counter and it doesn’t flop shut.

Ina Garten (08:40):

I’m so glad you noticed that.

Sharyn Alfonsi (08:42):

Early on Garten sought out a printer in Japan so her cookbooks would lie flat, it wouldn’t close while cooking. She designed them to have white space for notes and pictures as guides. Simplicity is a non-negotiable.

Do you ever throw something out because it’s too difficult to make?

Ina Garten (08:57):

Absolutely. If I get to a point in a recipe and I go, I’m never going to make this recipe again, everything goes in the trash. If you’re exhausted by the time you finish that, it’s not good for the party.

Sharyn Alfonsi (09:09):

You’re thinking about the party above all things?

Ina Garten (09:11):

I’m always thinking about the party.

Sharyn Alfonsi (09:13):

The party got real big, real fast, after Ina was invited to be on Martha Stewart’s show. An outtake caught the eye of a Food network executive.

Ina Garten (09:22):

She said that I was making something and I took a spoonful of it and tasted it and go, this is really good. Martha Stewart crew said, cut. You can’t talk with your mouthful and I was like, why? It’s a cooking show.

Sharyn Alfonsi (09:35):

Garten told network executives, she didn’t want a show, but eventually gave in with a caveat. Instead of an adoring studio audience, she insisted on a more intimate affair in her kitchen. She directed the cameras to come closer, so it felt like a dinner party.

One of the things I’m fascinated by is that there are a lot of people who watch your show who don’t cook. What do you think the appeal is? Why are they watching you cook?

Ina Garten (10:03):

I think there was a time when mom was in the kitchen cooking for us and I think people feel like they’re just hanging out with me and I’m cooking for them.

Sharyn Alfonsi (10:10):

When you’re cooking, it’s not about look at me.

Ina Garten (10:14):

Oh, it’s never about looking at me. I’m like, don’t look at me. I’m just the opposite. It’s funny, I have a friend who said, everybody else is like, look at me, look at me, pay attention to me. I’m like, well, this is what I do. You can do whatever the fuck you want to do and I’m just having fun here.

Sharyn Alfonsi (10:37):

The fun came to a screeching halt for Ina and everyone else during the pandemic. Unable to film her show or cook for her friends, Garten turned to Instagram, offering practical advice to home cooks.

Ina Garten (10:50):

It’s really important to keep traditions alive.

Sharyn Alfonsi (10:52):

And stirring up some fun.

Ina Garten (10:54):

You never knew who’s going to stop by. Wait a minute. Nobody’s stopping by.

Sharyn Alfonsi (10:58):

Two cups of vodka and more than 3 million views later.

Ina Garten (11:02):


Sharyn Alfonsi (11:04):

With the lockdown over, we wanted to make sure Ina didn’t have to drink alone.

[inaudible 00:11:12].

Ina Garten (11:12):

Hi sweetie. Hi. You know Sharyn, right?

Jeffrey Garten (11:16):

I know Sharyn. Hi Sharyn.

Ina Garten (11:17):

We made a red grapefruit paloma for you. How’s that?

Sharyn Alfonsi (11:20):

Mr. Garten had a successful career on Wall Street and served as the Dean of Yale’s business school, but millions of viewers know him simply as Jeffrey. Ina has called you her muse before. What is she to you?

Jeffrey Garten (11:34):

Well, she’s the center of my life. She’s actually the font of enormous amount of fun and she is the center of the home. That’s what she says to me.

Ina Garten (11:49):

Thank you. That’s not bad.

Sharyn Alfonsi (11:52):

The couple’s been married for more than 50 years.

Is this a typical day at the house?

Ina Garten (11:57):

Oh yeah. We have cocktails all the time. Couple of times a day.

Sharyn Alfonsi (12:01):

That’s the secret to a happy marriage.

Ina Garten (12:03):

That’s exactly right.

Jeffrey Garten (12:04):

Just delicious.

Ina Garten (12:04):

Thank you.

Sharyn Alfonsi (12:06):

The next morning we went looking for carbs, but in the Hamptons, the corner shop doesn’t sell donuts.

Ina Garten (12:13):

This is Carissa’s.

Sharyn Alfonsi (12:14):

So cute.

Ina Garten (12:15):

Isn’t it wonderful?

Sharyn Alfonsi (12:16):

Garten took us to her favorite local bakery for a taste of the good life.

What is it that you love about this spot?

Ina Garten (12:23):

Well, first I love Carissa’s because it’s two local women and the two of them have built this extraordinary place with great quality food. They use local ingredients in almost everything and they’re here every day and it just feels like what I used to do. Feels like coming home. Oh, look how fabulous that is.

Sharyn Alfonsi (12:40):

Oh man. That is fancy. This is just what I would typically have for breakfast.

Ina Garten (12:44):


Sharyn Alfonsi (12:45):

This is all lovely, but the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich is like $20. A lobster roll is $38.

Ina Garten (12:51):

First of all, it’s organic, it’s local and things are expensive here, but it’s not just a piece of white bread. It’s on a roll that Carissa made. One of the luxuries of being here is that you can make a really good quality product.

Sharyn Alfonsi (13:05):

Garten’s life is an all French pastries and rose colored cocktails, but we thought it’s pretty dang close. She may still be a nervous cook, but Ina Garten has nailed the recipe for a good life.

Ina Garten (13:17):

I want to do what I love doing and I want to do it really well and then I want to have a life.

Sharyn Alfonsi (13:22):

Joy has sold French food, right? Martha sold perfection. You’re slinging fun.

Ina Garten (13:28):

Well, I just think if you’re not having fun, what’s the point? Really?

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