This Fan Just Finished Cooking Every Recipe from Ina Garten's Cookbooks—and Ina Helped Him Make the Final Dish
Ina Garten has taught us everything from how to make far-from-boring chicken breast recipes and the only way to sear a salmon fillet to the ultimate way to make a PB&J and the best 10-minute party appetizer to serve drop-in guests. We've cosmo-ed, we've caked…but we have to lift our caps to someone who just completed a journey we don't think we'll ever be able to duplicate.
Meet Trent Pheifer, the creator of the blog Store-Bought Is Fine. After 6 years, 5 months and 3 days of culinary adventures, he just finished cooking his way through every single 1,272(!) of the Ina Garten recipes she's published to date in all of her cookbooks and Food Network TV shows. This calls for a standing ovation. And it calls for a call from none other than Ina Garten herself.
"With the project, one thing I've tried to keep in mind is to aim high with low expectations. You're not going to get what you don't ask for, but at the same time don't think anyone owes you anything or [you should] pin all your hopes on a simple ask," Pheifer explains in his March 13 blog post reflecting on the experience. "With this in mind, I thought it couldn't hurt to reach out to Ina and see if she'd make the final recipe with me. Worst case scenario would have been a 'no'—not the end of the world."
So last July, Pheifer sent Garten a direct message on Instagram, and despite her upcoming new show/podcast Be My Guest, the fact that she's wrapping up her next cookbook and penning a memoir, "Ina, being the class act she is, got back to me in a couple of hours saying she'd love to assemble the final recipe together over Zoom!"
"It's celebratory (it is cake after all), it's a recipe Ina spent years perfecting, and she even admits it's one of her most complicated ones. With multiple elements (orange-scented sponges, Grand Marnier pastry cream, an orange soak, AND a chocolate ganache drip), what better way to prove to Ina that she's taught me how to cook and bake than pulling off this showstopper!? Even though I'm not even a big fan of Boston cream pies, I knew that if anyone could convert me it'd be her," Pheifer continues on his blog.
Before we jump ahead to the conclusion—and that unforgettable call—let's rewind a bit to the beginning of the "Store-Bought is Fine" project. Pheifer and his roommate loved binge-watching episodes of Barefoot Contessa. But it wasn't until he read Julia Child's My Life in France after turning 30 that "I figured I was long overdue for learning how to cook," Pheifer explains to Good Morning America.
He first tried following recipes from anywhere and everywhere, but struggled to find success since many lacked thorough testing. At that point, Pheifer remembered his go-to girl, Garten, and "over time, I settled into a cadence of four recipes a week," he tells Good Morning America. "I wanted to keep the project fun for myself and not create a new source of stress. So as Ina released new books, the timeline got extended."
Along the way, he really learned to embrace one of Garten's core philosophies—a mantra that's also the name of his blog: "I learned to truly accept Ina's adage of 'store-bought is fine.' Why stress yourself out creating the 'perfect' meal when really it's the quality time with friends and family. As Ina says, 'no one is going to care that you spent all day in the kitchen making a dacquoise,'" he tells Good Morning America, referring to a frequent The Great British Baking Show challenge dessert that involves delicate layers of almond and hazelnut meringue, buttercream or whipped cream and a biscuit foundation. "Just keep things simple and delicious."
He chronicled every last recipe on his blog as well as on his charming Instagram account, @storeboughtisfine, where you'll frequently find other chefs and a legion of fans sharing lively conversations in the comments.
"I've gone from not really knowing much about cooking to dipping my toes into recipe development. I'm excited to have a little more time to dedicate to that. The dream would be to write a cookbook down the line, but I've got to put in the work and figure out my flavors and what story I want to tell with my recipes," he tells Good Morning America. As for the immediate future, Pheifer has "plenty of plans from lists and rankings of Ina's recipes to sharing all the other recipes I'm trying. And of course, I'll be counting down to October when Ina releases her next cookbook, which I will 100% be cooking through."
But to celebrate hitting this massive milestone, earlier this week, Pheifer was able to make that dream virtual cooking date with Garten a reality. For a sweet finish to the project, Garten talked Pheifer through how to stack, fill and ice that aforementioned Boston Cream Pie.
"I'm honored that you chose my recipes to learn how to cook, and you obviously learned! That's not an easy thing to make," Garten tells Pheifer at the end of their 27-minute Zoom chat. "It's the perfect place to end the project. I'm really, really impressed!"
After wrapping up the conversation and popping a bottle of bubbly, Pheifer sat down to savor a slice with his husband.
"The icing (ganache in this case) on the cake is that Ina herself walked me through completing the final recipe—I may have made it through our Zoom without crying but the waterworks are flowing as I write this," he says in the caption for the Instagram video post. "What an absolute dream—she is as wonderful, kind, smart, and generous as she appears on TV and in interviews. Truly the real deal, and I can't thank her enough for being so supportive of this project and taking the time to finish with me. What a gem!"
And all of the hard work was more than worth it, Pheifer confirms.
"I could not stop eating it. The orange is heavenly, the pastry cream divine. It's moist, delicious, and was the perfect recipe to showcase what Ina's taught me over the years! The end of the project is very much bittersweet. I have so many mixed emotions, but for now, I'll just say THANK YOU!"