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Ina Garten and Martha Stewart are two of the biggest stars in the food industry, but contrary to what rumor mills may have people believe, the pair have never been rivals in their decades-long careers. Instead, the two have actually supported each other from the start.
Garten recently sat down with Michael Ian Black as a guest on his podcast, How to Be Amazing, and during their chat, she recounted the story of how she and Stewart first crossed paths.
At the time, the Barefoot Contessa explained, she was living in East Hampton, New York, where Stewart also has a home, and running her since-shuttered specialty food store. “My desk was right in front of the cheese case and we just ended up in a conversation,” she said of their initial interaction. “We ended up actually doing benefits together where it was at her house and I was the caterer and we became friends after that.”
Garten added that she admired Stewart’s career and respected that she had carved out a path for other culinary hopefuls to follow.
“I think she did something really important, which is that she took something that wasn’t valued, which is home arts, and raised it to a level that people were proud to do it and that completely changed the landscape,” she said.
“I then took it in my own direction, which is that I’m not a trained professional chef, cooking is really hard for me — here I am 40 years in the food business it’s still hard for me.”
The Food Network star, who is known for her simple, flavorful recipes, added that there are definite differences between the two chefs. For one, we now know why Garten will never use this surprising herb in any of her dishes.
“I think maybe what I do is I take one step back and make it a little simpler so it’s really doable,” she said. “Martha does love the gorgeous presentation, so if she’s making a pumpkin soup, she might carve out a pumpkin and serve it in the pumpkin, which is great. … I love doing it, I love the challenge of it, but I know that somebody who hasn’t been in the food business for 40 years has even more difficulty than I do so it’s got to be a really simple recipe.”
As a testament to their friendship and mutual respect, Stewart penned the forward to Garten’s first book, "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook," which came out in 1999.