The Barefoot Contessa may be the star of her Food Network show, but her husband also has quite a following of his own
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Credit: Christopher Testani

“He’s so much more popular than I am!” says Ina, who is featured in the lasted issue of PEOPLE, on stands now.

Over the show’s 23 seasons, Jeffrey has indeed acquired quite a fanbase of his own. “There are times when I’m at the airport and I’m sitting having a meal or a snack alone and I look up and suddenly I’m surrounded by people,” he says. “They want me to sign their napkin, anything. I’m always very embarrassed.”

“I always worry that one day he’s going to get sick of people walking up to him on the street and saying, ‘I love your wife,'” Ina adds.

“I’m surprised when people recognize me, because my role on the show is very, very minor,” Jeffrey says. “It appears to people that I’m on the show much longer, because she’s always talking about me, my coming home, and cooking for me.”

The couple’s 48-year marriage was the inspiration for her latest cookbook, Cooking for Jeffrey. “She told me that she’d like to write it and I said, ‘Well, since you’re always cooking for me anyway, that’s fine!” he laughs.

As to why their relationship has resonated with viewers, Jeffrey is puzzled, but has his theory. “Maybe it’s that it’s just a very traditional relationship,” he says. “Perhaps it reminds people of something their parents’ had, so they romanticize it.”