The Untold Truth Of Ina Garten's Assistant Lidey Heuck

Ask any Ina Garten fan and they'll tell you this: Lidey Heuck had the dream job. The food writer and recipe developer, now 29, got her start in the food world as Garten's assistant, living a mile away in East Hampton, New York, and spending her days learning about cookbook writing and effortless entertaining from the Barefoot Contessa along with running her social media accounts (via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). Her job inspired many admiring articles, like "24 Hours in the Life of Ina Garten's Assistant" from Food and Wine and "What Would Ina Garten Do? Lidey Heuck Probably Knows the Answer" in The Kitchn.

After six years under Garten's wing, Heuck has now spread her own, working as a freelancer and writing recipes for New York Times Cooking and authoring her food blog, Lidey Likes. Her career trajectory — from food-curious English grad to right hand for one of the culinary world's most beloved celebrities — would awe anyone that has ever seen an episode of "Barefoot Contessa." Here's how it all began.

Heuck learned to love cooking in college

Heuck grew up in Pittsburgh, where her uncles owned four restaurants and her grandfather entertained the family with big Italian dinners, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. While Heuck helped bus tables at the restaurants and cooked for fun in high school, occasionally trying new dishes at restaurants around town after she got her driver's license, her interest in food was mostly casual. She'd watch the Food Network, look through her mom's cookbooks, and eat lots of spaghetti and roast chicken.

That changed when she got to Bowdoin College, a private liberal arts school in Brunswick, Maine. The English and political science major started throwing dinner parties for friends, using napkins and cutlery she snatched from the dining hall, and cooking tips she picked up from her uncles. Even then, Garten's approachable entertaining recipes were an inspiration. "I have always loved her," Heuck told the Post-Gazette about Garten. "Although the pictures of Ina and the Hamptons were so far from what my life was, there was something about it all that resonated with me."

She got her job as Garten's assistant by simply asking

The way Heuck landed her gig with Garten is a great case for networking and going after your dreams. In Heuck's senior year at Bowdoin, as she and friends searched for jobs, the budding foodie had an idea: Why not just send Ina Garten a letter? A college friend's father worked as Garten's attorney and agreed to pass on an introduction from Heuck, Food and Wine reports. It was perfect timing: Garten already had an assistant — longtime friend Barbara Libath (per Delish) — but the celebrity chef needed a social media manager.

So, at 21 years old and two weeks after graduating in 2013, the English major moved to East Hampton, NY to work on Garten's website and social media accounts, according to Elle. The Barefoot Contessa was hesitant to use Instagram at first, notes the article, but Heuck downloaded the app for her and encouraged Garten to "play around." Now it's "the first thing" Garten does in the morning because she enjoys being able to engage with fans between cookbook releases. "With Instagram, people feel like you're sharing with them, which is a good thing," the famed cook told Elle.

Heuck's job soon went well beyond social media

As Garten grew more comfortable with social media — and Heuck became more familiar with the chef's small team — the young college grad's role progressed to include duties beyond those of a personal assistant, according to The Kitchn. She'd do grocery runs — sometimes every day — to stock up for photo shoots, accompany Garten on trips during book tours, and, most significantly, assist with recipe testing.

Heuck, as Buzzfeed notes, "was not a professional chef; that wouldn't be the point." The key to Garten's famously thorough recipe-testing process is having everyday home cooks try her recipes. That's where Heuck would come in: "Part of why Lidey was brought on, in fact, was because [assistant] Barbara [Libath] had worked with Ina for so many years, she'd gotten too good at cooking her recipes," reports Buzzfeed. Of course, after years of testing for Garten, Heuck's kitchen skills improved — so much so that she became "a sous chef of sorts," even helping Garten develop recipes for her books, according to Food and Wine.

Heuck is now on her own, working as a food writer and recipe developer

"As an assistant, [Heuck] learned everything from cooking techniques to writing recipes and conceiving an entire cookbook, to running a business and making decisions," writes the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. So, after six years working with Garten, it was time for something new. Heuck's studies and the fact that both of her parents worked for newspapers, the Post-Gazette reports, meant a career in writing was inevitable. So she combined her passions for writing and cooking with her freelance work for New York Times Cooking and, formerly, for Delish.

Heuck, now based in New York City, has gone on to gain more professional cooking experience since her days with Garten, according to her website. She spent a summer working at The Lost Kitchen Restaurant in Freedom, Maine (also appearing on the TV show on the Magnolia Network) and has also collaborated with Amber Waves Farm in New York to host a four-course dinner for 27 guests (via The Kitchn). She's also teaching online cooking classes (via AirSubs) and constantly updating her Lidey Likes blog with recipes, weekend trip itineraries, and affordable wine recommendations.

Heuck still gets inspiration from Ina Garten

Working with Garten for six years, Heuck told Food and Wine, was like "being part of a family" and made their relationship "really special." After cooking together all day, they'd often play bridge or go out to a movie, she said. And even regular work days — including those when Garten's team tested Boston cream pie for the 20th time — were fun, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "The frequency with which we would just erupt into laughter was one of the great things about my job," Heuck said.

Reading Heuck's interviews, it's clear that her most important takeaway from her time with Garten is the value of gathering around a table. "I think people my age don't get together enough," Heuck told Food and Wine. "The point of my blog is to encourage millennials to cook and entertain." And whenever Heuck hosts a dinner party, she keeps it low-stress: Make one dish in the oven, one on the stove, and one ahead of time to be served at room temperature (via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). That's just another trick from the Barefoot Contessa.