In 1999, in what seems like another life, I enrolled at The French Culinary Institute in New York City. To help me prepare, I bought the professors' cookbooks: Alain Sailhac, Andre Soltner, and Jacques Torres had all published best-selling books, and it seemed like a great idea for me to learn their secrets and techniques. I was excited, intimidated, and busy practicing when my then-boyfriend proposed. Would I move to West Virginia with him?
What about hanging out with the best of the best in the culinary world? What about that?? Well, I will always have to wonder, because off I went to West Virginia, and my husband and I are still happily married with two beautiful children and a puppy. No regrets, although I think Jim might regret not having a wife who is professionally trained in French cuisine.
Now I am older, wiser, and firmly grounded in the belief that since I have Ina Garten, I don't need Jaques Torres and company. My sister's mother-in-law, whom I have known almost my whole life, gave me my first Barefoot Contessa cookbook, and I will forever be grateful to her. Ina Garten shaped the way I cook more than any other single force. From her, I learned that a wonderful dish does not need to be complicated; it just needs to be prepared with the freshest ingredients and a firm understanding of basic culinary techniques.
Tomorrow, I am off to see Ina in person. She will speak at Boston's Symphony Hall, and if I can wrestle my way to the front of the line, I will get my picture taken with her. I'd like to hang it in the front hall of the Inn, where I have put into practice everything she has taught me. About a year ago, I overheard someone in the front parlors say, "I can't wait for dinner. I hear the food here is amazing." It was one of my proudest moments. Thanks, Ina.