24 Hours in the Life of Ina Garten’s Assistant, Lidey Heuck
If eating strawberry-rhubarb crisp for lunch and testing recipes while listening to Ina's favorite Welsh musician sounds like a dream to you, prepare for some serious job envy.
Lidey Heuck had admired Ina Garten long before she wrote the Barefoot Contessa asking for a job. The 22-year-old college graduate had heard through the grapevine—a friend’s father is Garten's attorney—that the cookbook author was searching for a social media manager, so Heuck wrote a letter introducing herself and asked the attorney to deliver it.
“He said, ‘Don’t get your hopes up; she only works with a couple people,’” Heuck recalls. But just a couple weeks later, Heuck found herself driving from Maine, where she was living at the time, to Garten’s house in East Hampton. And she handily snagged the job. That was five years ago.
Heuck's job has since morphed from doing social media for Garten’s accounts and maintaining her website into something more: with a degree in English, she has worked closely with on the various cookbooks—including the recently unveiled forthcoming Cook Like a Pro. Heuck travels to events for and with her boss. She handles errands such as grocery shopping... “Basically whatever she asks me,” she says.
Most recently, Heuck’s role has morphed into a sous chef of sorts, as she helps Garten test and develop recipes. Garten will often ask Heuck to test a new dish at home, cooking as if she were a stranger, so that they can perfect each recipe for the home cook.
Heuck also develops her own recipes. “She’ll say that she has an idea for a salad and she’ll give me an idea of what she wants and asks me to play around with it,” Heuck says. “So I will make it, and then we’ll make it together, and then she’ll take it from there.” Heuck was able to stretch her recipe development muscles in Cook Like a Pro, adding several recipes to the new tome, including a recipe for potato galette and a stuffed dates appetizer.
But Heuck admits that working for Garten isn’t all, well, work. Living in East Hampton and working together has changed their relationship into a kind of friendship, too. “It’s a really special relationship,” she says. “We spend so much time together—it really is like a family of sorts at Barefoot Contessa, and I think that it’s made, for me, this incredible kind of mentoring relationship. We have also become friends: I play bridge with Ina on Monday nights in the Hamptons, and in the dead of winter, we’ll go out to a movie.” Heuck adds, “It’s a job, but it’s also being part of a family.”
In just a few minutes of speaking with Heuck, it’s obvious the respect and admiration she feels for her boss. “She’s an incredible business person,” Heuck says, “and it’s really amazing to have the privilege of working and learning from her—to see up close how she embodies this incredibly successful company and brand.” It’s not all about business, though. “We just have a lot of fun together,” Heuck adds. “She’s smart and warm, and it’s a fun workplace.”
Heuck also says the age difference between herself and Garten has taught her the value of sharing a meal with friends and family. “Ina is of an older generation and I’m in the millennial age,” she explains, “but it’s interesting how many people my age are drawn to her and her way of cooking.”
Her casual and low-stress way of entertaining even inspired Heuck to create her own blog, LideyLikes, so that she could pass along Garten’s style and easy-breezy entertaining mentality to millennials. “The point of my blog is to encourage millennials to cook and entertain for people my age,” Heuck says. “I think people my age don’t get together enough. Now, more than ever, it’s important to get people together around the table.”
If you’re still curious what it’s really like to work for Ina Garten, read on. Heuck recorded a full day for us to enjoy, from walking her dog, Winkie, to cooking with the Barefoot Contessa herself.
6:49 a.m.: I wake up 10 minutes before my alarm, walk into the kitchen to make coffee and then jump back into bed for a few more minutes of peace and quiet—and Instagram.
7:03 a.m.: My morning scrolling session is ended by my Welsh Terrier, Winkie, who wants to go outside.
7:10 a.m.: I drink two big glasses of warm water, pour some coffee and whole milk into a mug and head outside to walk Winkie. We do our usual route, a 20-minute loop from my house to North Main Street in East Hampton and back. My morning challenge is not spilling coffee on myself until we make the first turn.
7:40 a.m.: Back home, I take a container of my “famous” breakfast bars out of the fridge, sit down at the kitchen table, and open my computer. I am working on the recipe for these bars—which no one is calling famous but me—and I have been eating them for breakfast for a week straight. They’re made with dates, cashews, almonds, maple syrup and oats, and I hope they are famous one day.
7:42 a.m.: Breakfast bar in hand, I begin working on my website. With the help of a developer, I’m building a new one for my blog, LideyLikes [formally Lidey’s Table], and it’s taking up almost all my free time. I’m trying to channel my inner Karlie Kloss and learn some code in the process, but it’s slow going.
8:06 a.m.: My boyfriend, Joe, calls. He lives in New York and we always chat first thing, before the day gets going.
8:15 a.m.: I hang up and get ready for work. We are very casual at Barefoot Contessa, so my work attire usually consists of boyfriend jeans, a cozy sweater, and Superga sneakers. I have them in four colors.
8:52 a.m.: I grab Winkie from the yard and off to work we go! I live about a four-minute drive from Ina’s, or six minutes with Hamptons’ summer traffic.
9:00 a.m.: Ina, her other assistant Barbara, and I sit down for our morning meeting. Ina goes over her schedule for the rest of the week, and we talk about the day ahead. She doesn’t have time to work on a full recipe today, but wants to play around with different methods for soft and hard-boiling eggs. I tell Ina about my idea to work on a gluten-free version of her Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp. She likes it and we are off to the races!
9:58 a.m.: I make a grocery list and pop over to Citarella to pick up what I need: rhubarb, strawberries, oranges, and eggs in various sizes for Ina.
10:14 a.m.: We pump the Sonos and start cooking. Ina really likes this Welsh musician, Novo Amor. It’s very relaxing cooking music.
10:30 a.m.: We each eat half a soft-boiled egg from the first batch, seasoned with salt and pepper. Winkie looks on hopefully and then sulks away when we don’t share.
10:36 a.m.: A garden club from Connecticut arrives for a tour of Ina’s garden. I pop out to say hello, and then hurry back to my crisp while Ina chats with them.
10:56 a.m.: We each eat another half of an egg. This batch is a little runnier and we agree it’s better.
11:25 a.m.: I take a few pictures of the crisp—pre-crumble topping—for Instagram. Rhubarb and strawberries together are so pretty.
11:29 a.m.: The crisp goes into the oven. Fingers crossed. I eat any little specks of topping that have escaped onto the counter before cleaning up.
12:30 p.m.: Lunch! And by lunch, I mean, the crisp is ready. It is absolutely delicious and you would never know it’s gluten-free. I used Cup4Cup gluten-free flour. That stuff is a serious miracle product. The best thing about gluten-free desserts is you can eat them for lunch because they’re good for you, right?
1:38 p.m.: I drive to our office in East Hampton village and catch up on emails. Winkie takes a nap in one of the armchairs. Barbara is there and we go over a few things we talked about earlier in the morning.
3:03 p.m.: I walk Winkie down the street and back. I buy a Spindrift seltzer at Mary’s Marvelous.
5:00 p.m.: I lock up the office and drive home. I change into exercise clothes and mentally prepare for the embarrassing, yet secretly amazing Instagram workout I have been doing. I love it because I can do all the exercises in my living room.
5:18 p.m.: The downside of that convenience—I am now organizing my closet instead of working out.
6:30 p.m.: My friend Paul Weinstein comes over. Paul and I met in high school, in Pittsburgh, and both ended up in the Hamptons by total coincidence. He is the director of hospitality for Wölffer Vineyard and is taking me as his date to Eleven Madison Park Summer House’s friends and family night. Definitely not an average Tuesday night.
7:02 p.m.: We get to the restaurant and are seated in the covered back patio. We sit, as though we’re in a café in Paris, on the same side of the table. I am big fan of sitting on the same side of the table. It’s feels less formal and is especially convenient for sharing, which I end up doing most of the time.
8:54 p.m.: We are stuffed. We have eaten lobster tempura, fried chicken, a flatbread pizza, a burger, and maybe a few other things, too. I lost count. Not to mention a few cocktails each. My favorite was “End of Discussion”—tequila, mescal, green Chartreuse, and jalapeno.
9:37 p.m.: Back at my house, Paul and I play Mario Kart on Nintendo 64. I was home visiting my parents in Pittsburgh this weekend and decided to bring the whole thing back to East Hampton. We are both absolutely terrible.
10:03 p.m.: Paul goes home and I FaceTime Joe while getting ready for bed.
10:50 p.m.: Lights out.