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Ina Garten wasn’t sure she should write a memoir: ‘Who would be interested in my story?’

The Barefoot Contessa also revealed the meaning behind the title of her memoir, “Be Ready When the Luck Happens.”

If you can’t write your own memoir, store-bought is fine.

Ina Garten announced that her latest book, “Be Ready When the Luck Happens,” won’t be filled with recipes, but rather her life story.

The decision to write a memoir didn’t come naturally to Garten, who called the process “a long journey” that’s been four years in the making.

“Well for a long time, I thought, ‘Who would be interested in my story?’ And a friend said to me, she said, ‘Somebody’s going to write your story and it should be you.’ And I thought ‘Oh, that’s a good point.’ And we started on it and she helped kind of bring me to places I had forgotten. It turned out to be a really interesting experience,” Garten shared in an exclusive interview on TODAY April 11.

One of those places was Washington, D.C., where Garten worked as a budget analyst for presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

“She would take me to like the place in Washington, where I decided to leave Washington and said, ‘Put yourself on the steps with Jeffrey having the conversation about leaving him and leaving Washington and you moving on.’”

Revisiting those life-changing moments was emotional for Garten, but she also says that they illustrate how she got to where she is.

“Be Ready When the Luck Happens” is yet another example of Garten’s pioneering spirit and courageous career.

“I think shifting gears was scary. I jumped off a few cliffs, thinking, ‘How is this going to work out?’ It would have never happened if I hadn’t. Having the courage to do scary things is really what propelled my story,” she said.

As Garten wrote the first draft to her memoir, she turned to love letters her husband Jeffrey wrote to her when they first started dating.

“I had those as a record. It was really quite extraordinary,” Garten said. The letters ended up being a reminder of things the two of them had experienced earlier in life.

“There were things that I thought never happened but they were in the letters and it made us realize that, ‘Oh yeah, that’s right, that did happen.’”

With her stunning East Hampton home and numerous accolades including a James Beard Award, it would be easy to say that Garten is one of the lucky ones. She says that’s not exactly the case.

“I always thought that I was really lucky, but as I look back, I started to realize that I’d actually done a lot of the work. I taught myself how to cook, I built houses, I build things and that I did it because I loved doing it. I realized when it came to be that I was lucky that I saw a business for sale and that I was ready. It wasn’t just that I was lucky — I was ready when it happened.”

Garten first revealed the cover and title to her memoir in an Instagram video on April 9. “I wanted to tell you that I’ve written a different kind of book this time,” Garten said in the video. “It was really scary to do, but it turned out to be so much more interesting than I expected.”

“You know, I tend to look forward in my life, not back,” everyone’s favorite home cook continued. “And connecting the dots between when I was in my 20s and 30s and building things to now made me realize that I spent my entire life preparing myself to do what I love to do, which is write cookbooks.”

In addition to the latest reveal, Garten also shared that she’ll be embarking on a small book tour across eight cities this fall: Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York, Dallas, Costa Mesa, Boston, Chicago and Hartford.

“By finding a way to do what I love for a living — cooking — I’ve been fortunate to build a career that has not only been incredibly rewarding but has brought people together through the power of home cooking,” she said in a previous statement. “I hope my book will inspire readers to find their own unique story.”

In February, Garten announced her memoir in an understated updated on her Instagram profile. Celadon Books, a division of Macmillan Publishers, acquired the memoir.

Ina Garten’s Instagram bio reveals her memoir’s publication date.
Ina Garten’s Instagram bio reveals her memoir’s publication date.

“Ina Garten is beloved by all, a national treasure who has become iconic beyond the food world,” said Deb Futter, a senior vice president and co-publisher, in a press release. “Her memoir will cement her legacy in the cultural landscape.”

Garten, 76, revealed she was working on a memoir in 2019. Before launching into all things culinary — first at a store in East Hampton and subsequently on Food Network — she had a notable career as a nuclear budget analyst in the White House. After serving under the Ford and Carter administrations, Garten felt an urge to do “something else,” she shared in an interview with Katie Couric.

A drive out east to the Hamptons with her husband Jeffrey unfolded into more than a quiet beach getaway. Garten found a small specialty food store in the village of East Hampton, made an offer for $20,000, and started making commercial-sized batches of chicken salad and coconut cupcakes shortly thereafter. 

The landscape of East Hampton may have changed since then (a Rag & Bone clothing store is now located where Garten’s shop once was), but so has the home-cooking icon's career. Today, she regularly hosts celebrity guests like Taylor Swift, Lin Manuel-Miranda, Stanley Tucci, Emily Blunt and TODAY’s Willie Geist in her iconic kitchen, and has inspired generations of cooks to use good vanilla.

Like Julia Child and Martha Stewart, Garten’s brand extends beyond the kitchen and into the dining room, gardens and local community. She effortlessly explains how to arrange a floral centerpiece, trim fresh herbs or decorate a tablescape for hosting your bridge club — and it’s even better if you’re close friends with the local florist.

Not everything about Garten’s life is attainable for the average person, but that’s part of her charm. Far from pretentious, a few minutes of watching Garten on television will probably make you peer outside your window and plot out where to plant a hydrangea bush — even if, like me, you don’t have a yard.

Garten is best known as the host of “Barefoot Contessa,” a cooking show that debuted on Food Network in 2002. Over nearly 25 years, she has published 13 cookbooks including “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook,” “Cooking for Jeffrey,” which was dedicated to her doting (and daringly successful) spouse, and “Go-To Dinners,” which was published in 2022. She has appeared in the kitchens of TODAY and The New York Times, and been used as the basis of parody accounts and memes on social media. She has been awarded three James Beard Awards and nominated for numerous other accolades.

How easy is that?