Ina Garten Adorably Recalls Her “Totally Disastrous” First Date With Her Husband Jeffrey: Their 48-Year Love Story

ina gartenCredit: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Ina Garten, the beloved star of Food Network’s The Barefoot Contessa, published her tenth cookbook, Cooking for Jeffrey, on October 25. The page-by-page dedication to her husband of 48 years, Jeffrey Garten, was released this week to highlight his favorite dishes— tasty meals that she makes of course. From braided saffron Challah bread–one of the first things she prepared after they were married–to apple pie bars, a dish the pair discovered on a trip to Napa Valley, The Knot gets a tasty peek at their life together.

Always beaming in each other’s presence, there’s no doubt that Jeffrey is Ina’s biggest fan. Barefoot Contessa viewers are familiar with his occasional drop-ins to taste a slice of pie or to join one of her lavish dinner parties. Until Cooking for Jeffrey, the couple’s private life, though, had remained largely unknown. Ina often raves about meals and adventures they’ve enjoyed in cities like Paris (where they lived for some time) and beyond.. What fans don’t know is that the bubbly chef once worked in the White House as a nuclear policy budget analyst and that her beloved husband is Dean Emeritus of the Yale School of Management. In Cooking for Jeffrey, Ina credits her husband for inspiring her to always follow her dreams. “To Jeffrey, who makes everything possible,” the book’s dedication reads.

The couple’s love story started five decades ago—and it truly was love at first sight, at least for Jeffrey. Soon began a long courtship of letter-writing and—finally—a first date. Read the excerpt from the book here:

Meeting Jeffrey

Jeffrey and I got off to a very rocky start and it involved cocktails—or more precisely, it didn’t involve cocktails! Let me back up. When I was in high school in Connecticut, my parents and I spent one autumn weekend visiting my brother at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Unbeknownst to me, Jeffrey and his roommate were in the college library studying as I walked by outside. Jeffrey just happened to look up at that moment. He asked his roommate, “Who’s that girl?” (Dartmouth was an all-boys school then, so I’m sure any girl walking past would have caught his eye!) Amazingly, not only did I happen to know his roommate from our tennis club back home, but also my brother had arranged for me to have a date with him that night. His roommate replied, “Her name is Ina Rosenberg, and I’m taking her to the movies tonight.”

The next day Jeffrey asked his roommate for my address. I received a beautiful handwritten letter in the mail (remember those days?) with a photograph of the most adorable guy I’d ever seen. A few months later he came to Connecticut and took me out on what turned out to be a totally disastrous date. I was sixteen and I tried to take him to a bar in a state where you couldn’t drink until you were eighteen. I’d never actually been to a bar, but I figured that’s where a college guy would expect to go, right? Unfortunately, I had no clue that I would need an ID to get past the bouncer at the door, let alone to be served. After we were summarily turned away at the door, we drove to a coffeehouse in Westport, Connecticut, and happily had a very good time. So much for impressing the college guy! Decades later, I asked Jeffrey why he wanted to see me again after that mortifying first date and he said, “I decided you needed taking care of.” Be still my heart.

Their love story continued through December 22, 1968, when the couple married at her parent’s home in Connecticut. A photo in Cooking for Jeffrey shows the couple cutting their wedding cake, with Ina in a simple yet playful dress with a crew-neck collar, short sleeves and a cut edge veil with bow details. Penguin Random House, which has published all ten of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, shares the photo with The Knot.

Ina Garten Jeffrey wedding photo

Photo courtesy of Random House

The Food Network star also partook in a “Throwback Thursday” post on October 27 and shared a candid black-and-white photo from their wedding day via Instagram. Clutching a gorgeous bouquet, she and Jeffrey, in his Army Officer’s uniform, are laughing out loud in pure wedding bliss. “Still having fun 48 years later!” the caption read.

Still having fun 48 years later! #cookingforjeffrey #tbt

A photo posted by Ina Garten (@inagarten) on

Reprinted from Cooking for Jeffrey: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Copyright © 2016 by Ina Garten. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

About the Author

Catherine Jessee
Catherine Jessee is the Digital Editorial Intern at The Knot.