Ina Garten, the Food Network’s “Barefoot Contessa,” will headline a fundraiser for independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler this month in Portland.

Cutler is on the Nov. 2 ballot along with Republican Paul LePage, Democrat Libby Mitchell and independents Shawn Moody and Kevin Scott.

Before she became a culinary celebrity, Garten worked for Cutler in the Carter administration. Garten was a nuclear-energy policy analyst and Cutler was an associate director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The two became friends, Cutler said. He had about 300 people reporting to him in the Office of Management and Budget, he said, and Garten was one of about 10 women.

“She was smart as hell and funny. We got to be friends. I got to know her and her husband, Jeff,” said Cutler.

Cutler said that about six months before he left the Office of Management and Budget, Garten resigned from her job. She told Cutler that she was moving to Long Island in New York and buying a small food shop.

“I looked at her and said ‘You’re what? You’re buying a food shop called the Barefoot Contessa? Are you out of your mind,’” Cutler said.

Garten bought the store in 1978 and expanded it before selling it to her employees in 1996. In 1999 she wrote her first cookbook, “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook,” which was followed by the best-selling “Barefoot Contessa Parties!” in 2001.

She has written other cookbooks and been a columnist for House Beautiful, Martha Stewart Living and O magazines.

Cutler said they stayed in touch, and when Garten learned he was running for governor, she offered to help. Garten was unavailable for comment Monday.

According to invitations sent out Monday, there will be two events on July 30 at 58 Fore St., The Portland Company complex.

The first will be a private reception, limited to 50 people, each of whom will get a photo, a signed Barefoot Contessa cookbook and lunch for a campaign donation of $250.

That will be followed by a lunch at which Cutler and Garten will speak. Cookbooks will be on sale, and Garten will sign them, the invitation says. Admission for that event is a $50 campaign contribution, and seating is available for several hundred, said Cutler’s campaign manager, Ted O’Meara.

Garten and her husband, professor Jeff Garten of the Yale School of Management, have given a total of $9,899 to Democratic candidates and causes on the federal level, according to the Federal Election Commission’s database.


Staff Writer Matt Wickenheiser can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: [email protected]