The Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten is one of the most celebrated personalities in food today. These days, she’s just as well-known for her foolproof recipes as she is for cooking for her number one fan, Jeffrey Garten, her husband of nearly 50 years. Now that her highly-anticipated 10th cookbook, Cooking For Jeffrey (out in October) is devoted entirely to the dishes she makes for him, it’s time to get up to speed on the man himself!
Here are 10 things you might not have known about Jeffrey Garten:
1. He met Ina when she was 15. She was visiting her older brother at Dartmouth and Jeffrey was a student there at the time. She even spoiled him back then: “When I was 16 and Jeffrey was 18, I used to make him brownies and send them in a big box to school. I think he was the most popular guy in the dorm when they arrived,” she said during an episode about their 40th wedding anniversary meal. The couple married in 1968—when she was 20 and he was 22.
2. He’s a veteran. Jeffrey served in the military for four years, from 1968 to 1972, according to his faculty page at Yale. (It runs in the family: Jeffrey’s father, Mel Garten, who died at 93 in May 2015, was a decorated soldier with 30-year military career. According to his obituary in the Village Voice, he earned the Distinguished Service Cross, three Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, five Purple Hearts, the Legion of Merit, two Joint Commendation Medals, and two Air Medals. He also lost a leg in Vietnam in 1966.)
3. He’s been a part of four presidential administrations. According to a story in Johns Hopkins Magazine (he has his Masters and a PhD from the school), Jeffrey worked in the Nixon, Ford, Carter and Clinton administrations. Ina also worked with the Washington, D.C. elite after majoring in economics at Syracuse and getting her MBA at George Washington University. She writes on her website, “In 1978, I was working in the White House Office of Management and Budget and thinking I’ve got to do something more creative.”
4. He worked on Wall Street. For 13 years, he worked at Lehman Brothers eventually became a managing director focusing on debt restructuring in Latin America and expanding investments in Asia, according to Johns Hopkins Magazine.
5. He’s an esteemed professor at Yale. After his time on Wall Street and in Washington, he became dean of the Yale School of Management from 1995 to 2005. He’s currently the Dean Emeritus, and teaches six courses, according to his faculty page.
6. He’s written five books on the global economy. His first was published in 1992, called A Cold Peace: America, Japan, Germany, and the Struggle for Supremacy. His latest, From Silk to Silicon, was published in March 2016.
7. He’s the one who encouraged Ina to get into the food business. Ina was discouraged by her work in D.C., and told CBS Sunday Morning that she lamented to Jeffrey that she needed a change. “I have to do something different,” she said. “Nuclear energy policy’s not me.” So when she saw an ad in the classifieds about a shop for sale in the Hamptons, Jeffrey was down to check it out. “I felt very bad for Ina, and I said, let’s go look at it,” he told CBS. Ina ended up buying the shop, called the Barefoot Contessa, and ran it for 18 years. “Jeffrey just said, if you love doing it, do it,” she said. She’s still grateful for his business insight, telling Radio Cherry Bombe in 2014, “The best mentor I’ve ever had is Jeffrey.”
8. He really doesn’t ever cook for Ina. “Jeffrey makes coffee,” she told PEOPLE in 2011. “As somebody [once] said, smart men need coffee so they all know how to make coffee. And he’s very good at making coffee.” She added, “Jeffrey spends four hours driving back and forth from Yale to East Hampton twice a week. That’s what he does for me. And I cook for him and take care of him. I love to cook for him. He doesn’t have to do anything and that’s my pleasure.”It’s also hard to find something that Jeffrey doesn’t like (though we do recall he wasn’t a big fan of traditional birthday cakes). “I always tell this story,” she said. “One time I made him a cup of tea. And he goes ‘Oh, this is such good tea!’ I was like ‘Jeffrey, it’s hot water and a teabag!’ But because I made it, he enjoyed it. And that’s all I ask for from somebody I cook for.”
9. He’s not Ina’s guinea pig when it comes to new recipes. “I never test a recipe out on him,” she told PEOPLE in 2011. “If I’ve gotten it perfected, I might give it to him to see if he likes it. He’s a bad judge because he likes everything. If I’ve made it, he likes it.” Instead of Jeffrey, who is away working during the week, her business partner Frank Newbold tests out her dishes.
10. He’s aware of his celeb hubby status. Jeffrey told CBS that when he goes to the airport TSA workers say to him, “You know, you get me in real trouble… My wife wants me to be just like you!” But as he said in the Johns Hopkins Magazine interview, his role on the show is organic. “We don’t have any children. I’m her family,” he told “And she is all about family cooking. So there never was any contemplation on her part that I wouldn’t be part of this show. That didn’t mean I had to be on every episode, but she had to talk about me and explain that one of her motivations for cooking is her husband. And that had the virtue of being the absolute truth.”