From September 5-8, the Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank turns its entertainment stage into an epicurean stage with the presentation of “Appetite: A Gastronomic Experience™.” Whetting appetites and tempting palates will be appearances of world class Food Network celebrity chefs: the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten; Anne Burrell, Joe Bastianich and local celebrity restaurateur Victor Rallo.
Ina Garten will open the four-day epicurean excursion in a Q&A moderated by Teresa Politano, food writer and author of Celebrity Chefs of New Jersey. Garten will give a charming insider’s view of the world of the Barefoot Contessa and the pleasures of good food, cooked simply with love and passion.
In a recent interview with Ina Garten, she revealed how at age 30 her work as a nuclear energy policy analyst during the Carter administration had left her longing for a new identity and a fun, creative career. A newspaper ad for the sale of a specialty food shop in East Hampton intrigued her. Lured by the idea of a way to re-invent herself, she and husband Jeffrey took off from D.C. to see the shop. Sold. The Barefoot Contessa food shop was Ina’s and the Barefoot Contessa, in reality, was born.
Garten, who was the ultimate Washington, D.C. hostess leaving her daytime job to go home, cook and entertain friends, transformed her persona into food maven of the Barefoot Contessa. After 20 years, she’d had enough, sold the store to two employees and took a year’s sabbatical.
Totally bored, she started writing and, in 1999, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook was published and Ina Garten’s classy style and grace in entertainment was about to become a household staple when the Food Network finally convinced her to have her own cooking show. Eleven seasons later, with several awards and two daytime Emmy Awards, the Barefoot Contessa’s easy, relaxed manner has touched many home cooks’ souls. Not to let her creative genes simmer down, Garten’s newest venture, besides writing another cookbook (her latest is Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust), is a line of frozen meals, Barefoot Contessa Sauté Dinners – 10-minute dinners for two that taste like freshly cooked ingredients, not frozen.
In preparing a meal, whether for family or entertaining friends, Garten explains that what is most important is simplicity ~ simple food cooked to enhance the flavors. What could be better than a delicious roast chicken presented beautifully? Style is also very important to Ina, a trait she attributes to her father. In presenting her meals simply and stylishly, she only uses white plates or platters because everything looks better and the food takes center stage.
When asked about the farm to table movement in restaurants and chefs moving to the Hudson Valley where they are creating farms to put fresh foods on the table, she says there are two sides – the culinary and the business. If farming is non-productive during the winter months, the success lies in the productivity and income during the growing seasons. However, having been to Blue Hill Farm, she says Dan Barber is a genius in that field in placing the highest value on regional, sustainably grown ingredients.
About grilling outdoors, she had expressed an interest in buy the Egg, an egg-shaped green grill used frequently by Chef Bobby Flay. However, it’s primary attribute is for smoking, which Flay does frequently. If one is just grilling, she prefers the good old standard Weber with hardwood charcoal, as adding apple wood or hickory chips can enhance the flavors of the grilled meats, poultry or fish.
And, what would she crave if she found herself on a deserted island – a French apple tart with a delicious glass of Sauterne. Think I would like to join her there and raise a toast to her culinary achievements and success.
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