Ina Garten said she fell in love with cooking while camping with her husband Jeffrey on $5 a day

Ina Garten said she fell in love with cooking while camping with her husband Jeffrey on $5 a day
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Ina Garten said she first fell in love with cooking while on a camping trip with her husband Jeffrey in 1971. @inagarten/Instagram/Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images
  • Ina Garten first fell in love with cooking while on a camping trip with her husband Jeffrey in 1971.

  • The couple spent four months in Paris, living on $5 a day and sleeping in a bright-orange tent.

  • When she returned to the US, Garten taught herself how to cook using Julia Child's cookbooks.

Ina Garten is one of the most successful celebrity chefs in the business thanks to the delicious foolproof recipes that she shares as the "Barefoot Contessa."

But Garten didn't grow up in the kitchen. In fact, she didn't even know how to cook in her early 20s. But a romantic four-month camping trip in Paris with her husband Jeffrey changed everything.

Garten told MSNBC host Willie Geist about the fateful trip during a virtual author luncheon benefiting Shelter Island Public Library on September 29.

The "Barefoot Contessa" star said that she and Jeffrey first went to Paris in 1971 after he spent a year stationed with the Army in Thailand.

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Garten and Jeffrey when they first started dating. @inagarten/Instagram

They bought a book called "Europe for $5 a day," along with student tickets to Paris that cost $99 round-trip.

"We bought a car in Paris and spent four months camping in a Day-Glo orange tent that you couldn't stand up in," she recalled with a laugh. "You had to get out of the tent to put your blue jeans on. I don't know what the other campers saw."

Garten said their daily $5 had to cover the car, gas, and camping fees, which left them little money for food.

But one day, while they were in Normandy, the woman who owned the campsite offered Garten and Jeffrey some of the dinner she had just cooked for her husband.

"It was coq au vin," Garten recalled, referring to the classic French dish that typically features chicken braised with wine and mushrooms.

"I heated it up on my little camping gas stove," she continued. "And I thought, this is the most delicious thing I've ever eaten in my life. I need to know how to make this."

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Garten and Jeffrey have been married for 52 years. Taylor Hill/Getty Images

When Garten returned home, she said she decided to learn how to cook with the help of a legend.

"I bought Julia Child's 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking,'" Garten said. "I'm endlessly grateful for her."

Seven years later, Garten would quit her job at the White House to run a small specialty food store in the Hamptons called Barefoot Contessa. In 1999, she wrote her first cookbook, and two years later, "Barefoot Contessa" premiered on the Food Network.

And Garten and Jeffrey - who have been married for 52 years - still go back to Paris every year to celebrate their anniversary.

"I know that I'm the most important thing in the world to him and vice versa," Garten told Geist. "We just have a wonderful time together, we take care of each other."

"Someone once said, 'Complicate your professional life, not your personal life,'" she added. "I think it's really good advice."

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