What Would Ina Garten Do? Lidey Heuck Probably Knows the Answer.

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(Image credit: Doug Young)

Welcome to Kitchn’s series My Superpowered Morning, where we show you how interesting people use their morning routine to help them fuel the rest of the day.

I have a stack of sticky notes inscribed with the mantra “What Would Ina Do?” and I use them sparingly. They’re reserved for my most daunting to-do lists because I find that channeling Ina in stressful situations is a highly effective coping mechanism. Her voice soothes, her laugh twinkles, her sartorial choices comfort, her cooking tips delight, and her relentlessly tested recipes truly never fail.

While I only get to channel Ina from time to time, Ina’s assistant, Lidey Heuck, gets to channel Ina on a daily basis. In addition to assisting Ina with whatever each day brings, Lidey is her recipe tester, sous chef, ingredient coordinator, book tour travel sidekick, social media consultant, and more. She even runs her own blog called Lidey Likes, where she provides recipes and entertaining tips of her own. Basically, it’s Lidey’s literal job to figure out “What would Ina do?”

Recently, though, I got to spend a day with Lidey out in in East Hampton where she lives (just a mile away from her boss) to answer a different question: “What would Lidey do?”

In a lot of ways, Lidey reminds me of Ina. She greets me with a hug, her house smells amazing, and she has a gorgeous vase of giant hydrangeas on her kitchen table. (I later learned that Ina cut the flowers from her own garden and helped Lidey to arrange them the night before we arrived.) She self corrects when she uses a dry measuring cup instead of a liquid measure for maple syrup (“Ina would be so mad at me!”) and she sends me home with a bag of freshly made granola for the car ride. At the end of our day together, I learn that that’s not Lidey being Ina. That’s Lidey being Lidey.

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What’s it like to have Ina as a boss?

It’s kind of amazing; we work very closely together so we have become very close professionally and personally. She’s been an incredible teacher to me over the last five years. I’ve learned so much about cooking, basic techniques, ingredients, tips, and how to make entertaining less stressful. It’s also just incredible to see how she runs her business, to travel with her, and to be a part of it all.

What’s living in the Hamptons like?

I’ve lived out here for more than five years now. It’s really fun in the summer, but in the winter it’s kind of quiet and slow. Of course I absolutely love my job, but found it to be a little bit lonely out here … so I got a dog! When Winkie was a puppy, though, I was like What have I done? Ina doesn’t have a dog, and was really supportive when I was thinking about getting one. When she saw how much I was losing my mind, I think she felt bad and now Winkie comes to work with me at Ina’s house. She loves him.

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What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?

The first thing I do when I wake up is let out my dog, Winkie. I live in a tiny house outside of East Hampton Village, so I have a yard that’s fenced in where he can hang out outside. I get up around 6:45 a.m. and check my phone, social media, and email to make sure everything is OK at work and in the world. Then Winkie and I will go for a quick walk. If the weather is nice enough, we can walk on the beach through October.

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Coffee or tea?

I’m old fashioned — I make regular drip coffee with whole milk. My mind is so much sharper in the morning so I’ll try to use some of that time before work, while I’m drinking my coffee to get a lot of stuff done, like make some headway on my website LideyLikes.com. That happens when I can fit it in!

Do you have a certain breakfast that starts your day off right?

I’m always hungry so, if left to my own devices, I will eat whatever is easy and within reach (like granola or peanut butter). I’ll try to make something in the beginning of the week like oatmeal, which I can heat up or even eat cold. I’m a big snacker but I find that I feel much better when I have a real breakfast. There’s this baked blueberry coconut oatmeal recipe on my blog that I make all the time.

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How has your role on team Barefoot Contessa changed over the past five years?

When I was first hired, I was brought on to do social media for Ina. I would work on her blog, Facebook, and Pinterest and even got her started on Instagram. But now she really posts on her own — and I love it. We also built her website, which was a big project, and I would do a lot of personal assistant stuff. More recently in the last year, I’ve been doing much more recipe testing and development.

Have you become more confident in the kitchen?

I’ve learned so much about cooking from Ina — and really learning while doing. This year, I took my skills to the next level. I’ve become good friends with the women who run Amber Waves Farm and they are the coolest, nicest people with this beautiful farm.

Earlier this summer, I talked with Katie, who is one of the farmers, about doing a big dinner in conjunction with my blog to celebrate their amazing produce. It was the most ambitious thing I’ve done up to this point. There were 27 people and we served four courses, family-style at one long table. I had never cooked in a commercial kitchen before, either. Everything I was cooking was five times the size of something I’d normally make — just humongous and so heavy. At one point, I cooked 12 giant ribeye steaks and my arm just gave out. I have to work on my muscles! It was really exciting to think of how far I’ve come in the last five years, that I was able to pull it all off.

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What’s the best piece of advice that Ina has ever given you?

She always says don’t over-complicate things and make your life stressful. If you’re hosting a dinner party, choose a menu that’s simple, that you’ve made before. (This is hard for me, because I always want to try something new.) But Ina is right. If you keep it simple, you don’t have to teach yourself a new technique right before your guests arrive, and if you stick to a plan you won’t have three things that need to be sautéed on the stove at the same time. One of the most helpful things she’s taught me is to get as much done as you can in advance. That sounds simple, but having things ready to be thrown in a pot can make a huge difference.

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What’s one thing that you think would surprise people about Ina and her recipes?

I cook from a lot of different cookbooks — I have a lot of them — and Ina’s really stand apart. Her recipes are incredibly clear, precise, and tested over and over again. That’s something that you hear, but I’ve been on the inside and witnessed it firsthand. On average, a recipe is probably tested anywhere from four to five times if it’s pretty simple and nothing goes wrong, to upwards of 20 times if it’s more complicated. We will keep testing them down to the half-teaspoon of salt to get it right. Some cookbooks will just say “season with salt and pepper,” but the average person doesn’t know what that means.

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When you and Ina are cooking, what music is playing?

We both have a thing for “girl power” music while cooking, so Taylor Swift and Shania Twain are regulars. Ina also loves music from Hotel Costes in Paris. It’s funky and upbeat and is the perfect background music for cooking. We also listen to a lot of classic ’70s soul, R&B, and Motown. We’ve also been listening to a lot of Leon Bridges lately!

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Why do you think Ina resonates with so many young people?

Cooking can be intimidating, but Ina’s recipes and philosophies make it easy enough that you actually feel like you can do it. You don’t have to be a chef to make her recipes or feel like you need all of these ingredients or fancy tools, either. I think young people gravitate to the way that she’s crafted this world and lifestyle — and that’s really the way that she lives. We like the idea of throwing a dinner party with really good cocktails where everyone feels comfortable — you know it’s going to be a fun night.

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Do you think you’ll write your own cookbook some day?

I think that would be really fun! I’ve definitely had a first-person look at every step. Mostly for now, I’ve been having a lot of fun working on my blog and making my own recipes.

What do you make when you host a dinner party?

I don’t have a go-to menu per say, but I really like to cook seasonally. That’s my first inspiration. I’ll usually do some kind of protein with a big grain salad with lots of veggies. Or some kind of pasta! I like to cook a bunch of different things in case people have dietary restrictions. I find that doing that is a lot easier than making the whole meal vegan or dairy-free. I also love making one-pot things; it really simplifies everything.

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What does healthy mean to you?

I try to eat in a balanced way, and I would say that I try to eat as healthfully as I can most of the time. In my job, that’s not always easy! But I’m never against eating what I want to eat if it’s delicious. It’s all about balance and not being too strict. I mostly just eat real food, not a lot of processed stuff.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

I would love to be able to be in more than one place at once. I’m constantly on the move, between NYC and East Hampton all the time. Sometimes I’ll end up missing stuff for whatever reason and have FOMO. I’d love to be able to say yes to everything.

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What are you most excited about right now?

I’m particularly excited about a few fall recipes that I have up my sleeve — I can’t wait to share them. I’m super excited to be traveling with Ina on her upcoming book tour for Cook Like a Pro! And, I’m a total nut for the holidays. I absolutely love parties and baking — I get so into it. My boyfriend and I have a big Christmas brunch that we always go all out for, too.

What do you say to people who really want your job?

You’re going to have to kill me first! Just kidding … but I really feel so fortunate and lucky to have landed in this position. When I hear people tell me how this is their dream job, it’s just a reminder of what an incredible opportunity this is. It also helps me realize how much Ina resonates with people.

Follow Lidey Around the Internet: Check out her blog and follow her on Instagram.

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