Executive Chef / Proprietor
Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City, CA
Chef Ben Ford officially earned his cooking stripes at some of the country’s most established restaurants and alongside several of America’s most treasured culinary icons. He has a successful chain of restaurants, Ford’s Filling Station, based on the fundamentals of teaching, cooking and foraging, and was awarded the prestigious Cochon555 prize. Despite all the accolades and achievements, it’s the large-scale home entertaining he grew up with that’s fueling his current passion. His cookbook, Taming the Feast: Ben Ford’s Field Guide to Adventurous Cooking, focuses not only on bringing people together to eat good, sustainable organic food, but gathering lots - and lots - of people together to eat sumptuous feasts.
Ben grew up in a creative, DIY environment. His family lived in the Hollywood Hills in the 1970s, a time when it was a haven for bohemians, artists, and hippies - not movie star moguls. His mother was a cook and illustrator, and he often helped her in the kitchen. His father, Harrison Ford, was a carpenter before he became an actor, and parlayed to Ben the joy of working with your hands, and the importance of perfecting and respecting craftsmanship. As a family, they would spend the summer at a lake house in Wisconsin, and both home and away, big get-togethers would call for creativity and feasting. Ben witnessed, first hand, the magic that takes place when you bring together friends, family, and food, and it stuck with him.
A nod to his father’s influence, Ben adopted the ability to create with his hands, a skill that eventually found its way into his cooking. Traveling extensively through South America and across the US, he was enamored by the hand-crafted cooking mechanisms used in homes, from roasting sheds to cinder block pits, many of which became the blueprint for his own versions years later.
SHORT STOP TO SLOW FOOD
Cooking professionally didn’t immediately occur to Ben. Initially, he pursued his dream of being a professional baseball player at USC. The training taught him important lessons in commitment and teamwork, but ultimately, after many injuries, he was forced to give it up. Spending a semester abroad at the University of Dijon in France, Ben admired and respected the European routine of going to the market daily to buy fresh produce and meat. He appreciated the Slow Food Movement, noting that the time and effort it took to cook had a truly positive effect on the end result.
When Ben returned to the States, he studied at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and was schooled in the ethos of using local seasonal ingredients by the country’s most prolific organic chef, Alice Waters, at the famed Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. He returned to Los Angeles and honed his traditional French-cooking techniques as Sous Chef at Eberhard Mueller’s Opus in Santa Monica. After tenures at two seminal Los Angeles restaurants, Campanile and Eclipse, now “Chef“ Ben, was named Executive Chef and created the concept for The Farm of Beverly Hills. There, he perfected his flavorful, earthy cuisine and became skilled in the operations of running a restaurant.
In 1999, Ben realized it was time to have a project to own and develop, so he opened the restaurant, Chadwick. The local and seasonal high-end California-Mediterranean menu earned him rave reviews and national acclaim, including a coveted three stars from the Los Angeles Times, one of the first restaurants in Los Angeles to receive this high rating. Following 9/11, Ben desired a way to make his style of food more accessible to the average American, and he experimented with Ford’s Filling Station, a place to enjoy real sustainable food with friends and family, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, opening in 2004.
The concept ended up being one of the country’s first ‘gastropubs’, and was so successful, he relocated Ford’s Filling Station back home to Culver City in 2006. In 2012, he won the Cochon 555 prize for snout-to-tail cooking with dishes like pork belly Benedict with soft poached egg, Fresno chili and bacon hollandaise. Recognizing a lack of good food in airports, a second location premiered in the Delta Terminal at LAX in 2013. A third location will open in downtown Los Angeles in fall 2014.
PLANTING THE SEEDS
Listening to and learning beside acclaimed Master Gardener and family friend, Alan Chadwick, instilled a deep connection for Ben to the earth and its elements through gardening. Ben and his wife, Emily, encouraged their two sons to put their hands in the soil early on, as it fosters an understanding of the fragility of life, and shows them the connection with food. Ben launched a garden at Farragut Elementary School in Culver City, dedicated to teaching students about planting and harvesting an organic garden, and encouraging kids to appreciate the holistic approach to growing their own food.
Ben is also proud to be part of the newly created American Chef Corps, a program of the US Department of State – a network of chefs from across the United States who have agreed to serve as resources to the state.
TAMING THE FEAST
Seeing a gap in the market for a cookbook that celebrates and demonstrates artisanal techniques to the keen BBQer, DIY enthusiast, and adventurous home entertainer, Ben created Taming the Feast: Ben Ford’s Field Guide to Adventurous Cooking. Tapping into his childhood outdoor feasting memories, the book features step-by-step illustrated instructions for nine menus with meals like a box-roasted spring lamb to cater for 40, and a Cedar-Planked Wild Sturgeon that will feed 45-50 hungry mouths all playing starring roles.
Like his approach to snout-to-tail dining, everything is accounted for with each chapter focusing on not only the execution of the main meal ‘event,’ but also the other key feasting components. The sides, the drinks, music suggestions and other large scale dining suggestions are all covered, as well as delicious recipes for one of the other bonuses of hosting a feast: the leftovers.
Director of Operations / Proprietor
Ford’s Filling Station, Culver City, CA
Although her roots are in Texas, it is no surprise that Emily Ford found her way to Los Angeles and became the “Head Bee Keeper” at Ford’s Filling Station. She has had a strong culinary curiosity since early childhood and enjoyed investigating expeditions in her grandmother’s garden. She not only developed an interest in plants and vegetables, but an interest in what you could do with them in the kitchen. This fascination, coupled with her family’s worldwide explorations into various countries, cultures and foods, translated into an appreciation for everything from hut to haute cuisine. In turn, this sparked her desire to create community and develop a way to maintain it over the breakfast, lunch, and dinner table.
After completing her BA at Trinity University in San Antonio, in marketing and finance, Emily quickly discovered the creative marketing side of business was her strong suit. She took these skills to Texas Nonprofits—a statewide online resource center for the philanthropic community—to organize their funding efforts and refine and develop their research tools into an impressive searchable database.
Then she took her refined skills back into the restaurant business and kitchen where her passions were strongest. At Sushi Zushi in Texas, Emily assisted Al Pomita in the launch of his first restaurant, which grew into a chain of eight quality sushi bars and restaurants. Soon after this satisfying experience, she found her way to Los Angeles, where she currently works at Ford’s Filling Station as the Director of Operations.
Working beside Chef Ford over the past six years, Emily’s committed mission has been to anticipate their customers’ needs and provide them with an enjoyable, exhilarating and memorable restaurant experience. She finds the diversity of clientele and the nightly opportunity to throw yet another sensational party a satisfying challenge. Her passionate approach is to focus on even the smallest detail, in order to create an exceptional result night after night. Emily’s enthusiasm, forward thinking, and lighthearted approach have worked to build the culture of the restaurant and sustain its primary goal—community!
A loving mother of two, Emily has chosen to donate considerable time to charitable food events and education, including the launch of an organic garden at Farragut Elementary School in Culver City, which is dedicated to teaching students about planting and harvesting healthy foods, and the LA Mission, which strives to be a world leader among missions that provide for the poor and those with addictions and helps to eliminate homelessness. Emily currently sits on the Board of The Fernando Pullum School of Performing Arts, and served on the DineLA Advisory Board as well as the Culver City Chamber of Commerce Board.