“I adore Taylor, and I admire her enormously,” says Garten, who is featured in the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
The pair was introduced through model Lily Aldridge — a member of Swift’s squad and fan of Garten’s who raved about her mustard-roasted fish — which led to the Barefoot Contessa host giving the pop star a personal cooking lesson in her home in East Hampton, NY. “I was so flattered that she chose to work with me,” she says. “We did this photo shoot together which was just one of the fun days of my life. It was just unbelievable.”
Swift, an avid baker, even impressed the culinary guru with her skills in the kitchen. “She’s a very good cook, and she loves to cook,” says Garten, who released her new book Cooking for Jeffrey this week.
The feeling was mutual, with Swift posting this Instagram selfie afterwards dubbing Garten her “hero,” and penning a doting essay on the Food Network star for TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in 2015.
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“She’s incredibly busy and incredibly in-demand, that she’d take the time to write about me, it meant that she thought that we had a special relationship, which I feel we do,” Garten told PEOPLE when the issue was released.
Even when the singer isn’t joining her in the kitchen physically, she has a presence in Garten’s home — with all of Swift’s CDs proudly displayed next to her library of cookbooks. “When I’m cooking, I listen to Taylor, and when guests come, [my husband Jeffrey and I] put on something classic like Ella Fitzgerald,” she says.
And despite the major star power that the two share, Garten insists that’s not a factor in their friendship. “If I have friends who are celebrities, it’s because they’re friends, not because they’re celebrities.”
For more on Ina Garten and exclusive recipes from her new cookbook Cooking for Jeffrey, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.