'Barefoot Contessa': Ina Garten Reveals the Best Part of Cooking Really Isn't About Food at All

Ina Garten has a lot of experience with entertaining guests and she’s discovered that cooking a meal isn’t the most important part of the dinner party. The Barefoot Contessa star shared her philosophy about why the best part of cooking for guests is having people come together.

Ina Garten follows simple rules when she’s entertaining

It’s easy to get caught up in the details when you’re planning to entertain guests, but Garten has a perfect process. Not only does she plan out everything and include make-ahead items to lessen the load, but she also isn’t shy about using store-bought items.

During an interview with Epicurious, Garten was asked if she had advice for first-time hosts, but her guidance can be adopted by even experienced hosts.

“There are two things,” she said. “Don’t make everything yourself; your friends will have just as much fun if you go out and buy a fabulous cake at a bakery.”

“And the second thing is, everything doesn’t have to be served hot,” she continued. “Some things are actually better at room temperature.” According to Garten, that cuts down on “juggling” menu items when trying to get the timing of everything just right.

“It’s nice to have one hot thing, but other things can be room temperature,” Garten added.

Ina Garten says organization is the key

Garten prefers to organize everything ahead of time. “The most important thing for having a party is that the hostess is having fun,” she explained. “I’m very organized. I make a plan for absolutely everything.”

“I never have anything that has to be cooked while the guests are there,” Garten said. “The only thing I might have to do is take something out of the oven and carve it.”

She said she follows simple rules when planning the menu. “I make sure I have at least one thing done the day before, at least one thing I can do early in the day, and then I only have one thing in the oven when guests arrive,” Garten explained. “It’s the planning — just make sure the menu is doable.”

Ina Garten shares the best part of cooking isn’t really about the food

In a video promoting the cookbook Cooking for Jeffrey in 2016, Garten shared why she loves cooking for her husband but also why entertaining friends is an experience that goes beyond the menu.

People come together when Garten cooks for them and, to her, that’s the most important part of entertaining.

“The thing I like most about cooking is actually that when you cook, everybody shows up,” Garten explained. “It’s not really the cooking part, it’s the community part.”

Garten continued, “One of the things I think people get really worked up about is doing a meal that impresses everybody.”

“What I try and do is something where you can buy really simple ingredients, cook something really simple, and everybody loves it,” she added. “I love to take an idea of something I love, like lemon chicken, and just make it as simple as it can possibly be and as delicious.”

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