Review: Ina Garten Live at the Saban Theater

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Review by Mike Henry

You’re probably wondering where all the impossibly wealthy, middle-aged women of Los Angeles were last Thursday night. Well, they were with me… at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills enjoying “Ina Garten: The Barefoot Contessa – Live.”

If you’re not familiar with Ina Garten, let me bring you up to speed: She’s the charming, soft-spoken Hamptons hausfrau who hosts the Food Network’s “Barefoot Contessa,” a program that celebrates the art of entertaining friends and family with elegance, style, and fake laughter. It’s kind of the shit.

If you’ve seen her show, you know that Ina usually spends the better part of each episode preparing simple but noble cuisine in her understated kitchen, then wraps things up by feeding it to a handful of homosexuals and her lovable, pear-shaped husband Jeffrey. So the question on everyone’s (read: my) mind was, “How the FUCK is that gonna happen live?”

The answer may not surprise you: It didn’t. It turns out, the event was simply an interview with Ina… about her career, her cooking philosophy, her new book and, of course, the aforementioned Jeffrey.

The interview was conducted by Davia Nelson, who co-hosts a show on NPR called The Kitchen Sisters. Davia’s moderating abilities left me asking, “How terrible must the other Kitchen Sister be if this is the one they went with?” To put it plainly: she sucked. Clunky segues, clichéd praise, and a pathological inability to follow up on an interesting point or story – Davia had it all!

More about how much Davia sucked in a moment. But first, let me paint a picture.

The Saban is a gorgeous Art Deco theater in Beverly Hills that typically hosts “rock and roll” shows by artists like America, Neil Sedaka, The Temptations and whoever else Beverly Hillians would enjoy seeing before they embrace death. So the Barefoot Contessa Live was a bit of a departure. On stage there were simply two black leather chairs, separated by a trunk-looking thing, on which sat a vase stuffed with approximately eight hundred thousand white roses.

The night began with Davia taking the stage and sluggishly reading a list of Ina’s accomplishments from a wrinkled pile of paper that looked like it had just been yanked out of a jammed photocopier. The Ina-Heads in the crowd didn’t seem to mind. They cheered each bit of Wikipedia-sourced info. “She used to work for Jimmy Carter…” (Woooo!) “She’s had nine best-selling cookbooks…” (WOOOOOO!) “She has a new line of frozen foods…:” [riots erupt, hundreds injured.]

Then, mercifully, Davia invited the guest of honor onto the stage. Ina strode out with all the confidence of someone who has the most beloved cooking brand in the world right now (duh). Dressed all in black with except for a string of pearls, Ina OWNED that fucking stage. …and I do NOT apologize for editorializing.

Davia immediately set about fucking shit up. She stumbled over a second introduction. She made a few ill-advised jokes of her own, and then suggested that they discuss one of Ina’s newest recipes, which Davia described as “brave.”

Brave. Sit with that for a moment. Davia called a recipe “BRAVE.”


Fortunately for Davia, Ina Garten is a smart, and incredibly savvy subject, and she single-handedly saved what could have easily been a 90 minute shit show. For example: when Davia clumsily said that Ina’s new book was “selling better than the Rolling Stones” (an analogy, by the way, she APOLOGIZED for, fearing retribution from enraged Stones fans???), Ina saved the bizarre, awkward moment by saying, “Taylor Swift still has me beat.” The crowd ate it up (sorry).

About the crowd: the order of the day appeared to be “Who among you can love Ina most?” The only thing these women seem to love more than scarves and drapey sweaters is loudly saying “Mmmmm…” at the mention of anything food-related. And I mean anything. At one point, Ina mentioned her favorite brand of vanilla extract (Neilsen-Massey) and said, “They have vanillas from Tahiti, Mexico, Madagascar…” and the crowd yummed the mention of each country. You can’t yum Madagascar, people. It’s an island nation, not a cronut. Assholes.

The audience also ooh’d and aaah’d many of Ina’s stories. A few times, I was on their side. Like when Ina explained how she and Jeffrey have been together since they were 15. (My wish for you all is that you find a Garten kinda love.) But occasionally, I wanted to leap to my feet and tell them all to shut the fuck up. For example, when Ina said she collects books about Belgian farm architecture? In my opinion, that is an inappropriate time for one to gasp with delighted wonder. Quiet!

After soldiering through the conversation with Davia The Human Ether Leak, Ina then took questions from the crowd. Some highlights:

How can I break into the food industry? Go to cooking school.

How can a make a tart with a tender crust? Use shortbread instead of puff pastry.

How has technology changed the way you cook? It hasn’t.

I’m a little girl, will you sign my book? Yeah, later.

I’m a gay man and I want to know what the dudes on your show are up to. Cool your jets.

(I’m paraphrasing.)

Ina wrapped up the evening by sharing her personal philosophy: “Don’t stand by the edge of the pond wondering what it’s like in there. Jump in. Engage, then strategize.” But what does she know? She’s just a multi-bazillionaire who’s living her dream times ten thousand who has an apartment in Paris because that’s where she and Jeffrey like to spend New Year’s Eve.

Listen to Ina. Jump in, motherfuckers.

You can satisfy all of your Ina Garten needs HERE.

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Pop Culture BeastReview: Ina Garten Live at the Saban Theater