Barefoot Contessa — first as a food store and later as a show and brand — has been synonymous with culinary icon Ina Garten for over 40 years. However, despite its popularity, here’s a fun fact: Garten used to hate the name!
In a recent interview with MSNBC’s Willie Geist, Garten opened up about buying the Barefoot Contessa store in the Hamptons in the late 1970s, which already had the now-famous name. It turns out that the store’s previous owner had a familiar nickname among her family; she was called the “Barefoot Contessa” after the 1954 film of the same name starring Ava Gardner. “I actually thought it was a terrible name,” Garten reminisced. “Who calls a food store Barefoot Contessa?” She’d planned to switch to a new name after the first month of business once she was up and running, but by then, she’d come around enough to keep it. After a certain point, it stuck; she couldn’t turn back even if she wanted to.
Looking back decades later though after the long and incredibly successful career she’s had, Garten sees the name as a blessing instead of a curse. “It’s about being elegant and earthy,” she explained about what she likes about it.
The name matched the overall vibe she wanted customers to feel when they shopped at her business. “There were always good smells in the store,” Garten told 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.” It sounds like a dream!
Now that Garten’s truly built a culinary empire, it looks like her choice to stick with the original name was right all along. And could you even imagine Ina Garten with a different monicker other than Barefoot Contessa at this point?