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Ina Garten tells story of how camping with Jeffrey inspired her to learn how to cook

It all started with a little coq a vin on a camping stove.
/ Source: TODAY

The "Barefoot Contessa" Ina Garten recently opened up about the unique moment that inspired her to learn how to cook.

While some of her story is well-known — she left a steady government job to pursue her passion for food running a gourmet specialty store in the Hamptons — she recently opened up to TODAY’s Willie Geist about a fateful trip to Europe in 1971.

Garten, who spoke to Willie on Sept. 29 during a virtual author luncheon benefiting Shelter Island Public Library, said she and her husband Jeffrey had traveled to France in 1971 after he spent a year stationed with the army in Thailand, according to Insider. They have been married since late 1968.

Once there, they lived in a tent for four months, spending only $5 a day.

"We bought a car in Paris and spent four months camping in a Day-Glo orange tent that you couldn't stand up in," she said. "You had to get out of the tent to put your blue jeans on. I don't know what the other campers saw."

One day, while they were camping in Normandy, the woman who owned the campsite offered the young couple dinner — coq au vin, a classic French dish which features chicken braised with wine and mushrooms.

"I heated it up on my little camping gas stove," she told Willie. "And I thought, 'This is the most delicious thing I've ever eaten in my life. I need to know how to make this.'"

The rest, as they say, was history. When she got back to the U.S., Garten bought Julia Child's classic, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and got cooking herself.

"I'm endlessly grateful for her," Garten added. In the years since, she’s written 12 cookbooks and starred in her own show on the Food Network since 2002.

Garten has often talked about the support of her husband, Jeffrey, and even wrote a cookbook — appropriately titled "Cooking for Jeffrey" — for him.

In 2018, the two celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. As she told TODAY during a visit to the studio at the time, "If we can survive in a tent for four months, we can survive anything."