A timeline of Ina Garten and her husband Jeffrey's relationship, a love story that has lasted for over 50 years

Erin McDowell
·10 min read
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Ina and Jeffrey Garten have been married for over 50 years. @inagarten/Instagram/Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images
  • Ina Garten and her husband Jeffrey have been married for 52 years.

  • Their love story began when she visited her brother at Dartmouth College in 1963.

  • After Jeffrey spotted her from the campus library window, he began writing her love letters.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Few couples in the public eye match the adoration that Ina Garten and her husband, Jeffrey, so clearly have for one another.

Fans of "Barefoot Contessa" might recognize Jeffrey from his many appearances on Garten's show - always showing up at just the right moment to gush over how delicious the meal she has prepared is.

However, you might not know much else about the long-lasting couple, from how they met to how he encouraged her to pursue her cooking passion.

It appears that even during the coronavirus pandemic, the Gartens are finding romantic ways to spend time together. In a recent Instagram post, Ina shared a photo of her and Jeffrey's peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and told her fans about the couple's lunchtime dates, which include listening to podcasts and driving to the beach.

Here's a complete timeline of Ina Garten and Jeffrey's incredible love story.

1963: Ina Rosenberg met Jeffrey Garten when she was 15 years old and visiting her brother at Dartmouth College.

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Ina and Jeffrey Garten and the Dartmouth College library. Education Images/Universal Images Group/Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Their romance began to blossom after Jeffrey spotted Ina on campus from the library window.

"Look at that girl, isn't she beautiful?" Jeffrey told his roommate at the time, according to Food Network. As it happened, Garten's roommate knew precisely who she was — Ina Rosenberg, the younger sister of a friend whom he had planned a date with that night.

After the date didn't lead anywhere, Jeffrey sent her a letter with his photo in it. The future cookbook author was immediately interested.

"He saw me on the street and then sent me a letter with a photograph of himself in it," she told People in 2018. "I just remember running through the house and going, 'Mom, Mom, you've got to see this picture of this guy. He's so cute!'"

1963: Months later, a young Jeffrey and Ina went on their first date, but it was far from smooth sailing.

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Ina and Jeffrey Garten. @inagarten/Instagram

After Jeffrey picked up Ina, who was still in high school at the time, he drove them over to a bar in Port Chester, New York, where the legal drinking age was 18.

"It was a disaster," she told Food Network. "I had never been to a bar in my life! The guy at the door says, 'Where's your ID?' and I thought, 'What ID?'"

They ended up going to a coffee shop instead, where they had a "perfectly good time," according to Jeffrey.

1968: Ina, 20, and Jeffrey Garten, 22, wed at Ina's parents' house in Stamford, Connecticut.

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Ina and Jeffrey Garten on their wedding day in 1968. @inagarten/Instagram

After they were married, Ina and Jeffrey Garten settled in North Carolina after Jeffrey enlisted in the Army. With no plans to continue her studies at Syracuse University, Ina focused on cooking for her husband.

However, Jeffrey pushed her to pursue her passions for business and cooking, and she ended up getting her pilot's certificate on the side.

"We were part of the first generation where there was a fork in the road for a lot of women, whether to pursue their careers or stay at home," Jeffrey told People in 2018. "Ina was a cross between the two. She would send me brownies in a shoebox when I was in college and make me sweaters, but it never crossed my mind that she wouldn't also do something really interesting professionally."

1969: The newlyweds were separated by thousands of miles during Jeffrey's service in the Army and a long-term trip to Tokyo for his job, but their love letters kept them strong.

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Ina and Jeffrey Garten. @inagarten/Instagram

"I wrote to Ina every single day," he told People in 2018 of his time stationed in Thailand. "During the whole year, I was only able to call her once."

Ina saved all the letters and has spoken about reflecting on them 50 years after the pair tied the knot. One of Jeffrey's letters mentioned how he'd love to take her to Paris, despite not having enough money for a hotel.

Paris still holds a special place in the couple's hearts and is where they've spent their anniversary every year.

1971: It wasn't until the pair took a trip to Paris on a shoe-string budget that Ina truly explored her talents in the kitchen.

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A boulangerie in Paris, France. stevenallan/Getty Images

Using all the ingredients France had to offer, Ina prepared all their meals on a small gas camping stove.

"I had always thought about French food as 'cuisine' with complicated preparations and slowly simmered sauces," Garten wrote in her cookbook "Cooking for Jeffrey," according to Bon Appétit. "I discovered French street markets and simple, seasonal food that was based on incredibly good ingredients."

"It was the first formative period in her cooking," Jeffrey told Food Network. "All those little shops in Europe — the boulangeries — Ina would walk through them and just glow."

When they returned home, Ina began working her way through Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in order to hone her skills.

Read more: I made Ina Garten's pantry-friendly pasta and had dinner on the table in 15 minutes

1972: Ina and Jeffrey relocated to Washington, DC, where weekly dinner parties became a tradition.

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Ina and Jeffrey Garten in Washington, DC, in 1976. @inagarten/Instagram

While in DC, Ina Garten spent her days earning her degree from Georgetown University and later on working at the White House Office of Management and Budget. Jeffrey, meanwhile, worked in the State Department. At night, the Gartens entertained their throngs of friends at weekly dinner parties.

"People still talk about her parties," Jeffrey told Food Network. "They were legendary."

According to Insider, Garten worked under both Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, helping to write the nuclear energy budget.

Read more: Ina Garten says she quit her White House job to buy a grocery shop at the age of 30 thanks to advice from her husband

Ina Garten and Jeffrey decided early on in their relationship not to have children.

"It was a choice I made very early," Garten said during an appearance on Katie Couric's podcast in 2017. "We decided not to have children. I really appreciate that other people do and we will always have friends that have children that we are close to..." Garten explained. "I really felt, I feel, that I would have never been able to have the life I've had. So it's a choice and that was the choice I made."

"We don't have any children. I'm her family," Jeffrey told Johns Hopkins Magazine in 2016.

1978: Shortly after her 30th birthday, Garten quit her government position and bought the small Barefoot Contessa shop in East Hampton, New York.

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The Barefoot Contessa storefront in East Hampton, New York. Matthew Peyton/Getty Images

"When I told [Jeffrey] I wanted to move to New York and open a food store, he said, 'Let's move to New York!'" Garten told People in 2018. "That he would not object to moving to a different state for my career was so unusual, particularly 40 years ago."

It became her new passion project and would be the key in launching her to superstardom.

"Jeffrey said, 'If you love it, you'll be really good at it,'" Garten told the New York Times' Sam Sifton during a virtual chat for the release of "Modern Comfort Food," her latest cookbook. "And that's the best advice anybody ever gave me."

Jeffrey also kept busy and worked his way to becoming managing director at Lehman Brothers.

1995: After Jeffrey took a job as the dean of Yale's School of Management, Ina got to work decorating his commuter home to be just like their one in New York City.

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Ina Garten and Jeffrey Garten. Allen Berezovsky/WireImage/Getty Images

While Jeffrey was on business for Lehman Brothers in Tokyo, Garten did the same thing for his apartment there, even going so far as to hire a Japanese artist to replicate his desk chair.

Their Southport, Connecticut, home looks almost identical to how it did over 20 years ago — except for a few personal touches courtesy of Jeffrey.

"Ina doesn't like any evidence of her public life," he told Food Network, "so I collect all the newspaper and magazine articles. The walls are covered with pictures of Ina."

1999: Ina ran the small specialty grocery store for over 20 years before publishing "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook."

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Ina Garten signs "The Barefoot Contessa" cookbooks in 1999. Robert Lachman/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

As a first-time author, Garten was new to the publishing business and wasn't sure the book would be successful. However, her husband was always supportive.

"She has natural talent, but it's backed by so much effort and so much focus," he said. "When she had the store, she'd work until midnight all the time. The discipline of her recipe testing and how seriously she takes it — she doesn't settle for anything but the best. She's like a runner who collapses at the finish line even though she was ahead the whole race."

Her hard work paid off — the first initial 5,000 copies of "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook," plus an extra 15,000 the publisher ordered in advance because of strong press engagement, sold out almost immediately.

Read more: Meet the Ina Garten superfan cooking his way through all of the Barefoot Contessa's recipes

2000s: The couple calls East Hampton their permanent home, but Jeffrey continues to commute into Connecticut multiple days per week.

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Ina and Jeffrey Garten in 2018. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

"We're always texting each other and calling," she told People. "But I have to say I really look forward to Thursday or Friday when he comes home and the weekends are sacrosanct."

"When we're not together, I'll send her five or six texts per day," Jeffrey said. "I love looking at her schedule. I can envision where she is and what she's doing, and it doesn't feel like we're apart. If I could be with her seven days a week, 24 hours a day, that would be my ideal."

2020: One bonus of quarantining, Garten says, is that she gets to spend more time with Jeffrey.

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Ina and Jeffrey Garten in 2018. Charley Gallay/Getty Images

"I feel like I prepared my whole life to be quarantined, or working towards a place where we could be quarantined," the Barefoot Contessa told People in September 2020. "Jeffrey writes and he teaches remotely, and I think [he] is going to look back on these days as the good old days. I make him lunch, I make him dinner and he's home all the time."

"He would always leave on Monday and come back on Friday and I stayed in one place," Ina said. "I always wondered what it was going to be like when he retired. And when this happened, I thought, oh, I guess that's what's it's going to be like ... I have to say, it's great."

February 2021: It appears the Gartens are still finding pockets of joy during the coronavirus pandemic.

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A peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

"Lunch date! Jeffrey and I make PB&Js, drive down to the beach, sit in the car, and listen to the podcast The Daily," Ina Garten recently captioned an Instagram post of her and Jeffrey's lunch.

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