In 1987 Ben Ford was knocking on restaurant back doors in San Francisco. He was looking for kitchen work, and there was one job to aspire to: head chef. Eventually, he nabbed that top role in a tiny West Coast eatery. Then he opened his restaurant serving farm-to-table restaurant—an emerging concept at the time—to Los Angeles’ elite. Next came Ford’s Filling Station, a gastropub chain that brought serious craft to casual dining.
As Ford’s brand kept growing, so did his appetite for new projects. He wrote cookbooks and created a craft barbecue sauce line. And most recently, by way of the pandemic, he launched Doorstep Market, an ecommerce site where local food artisans sell direct to customers around the country. After 30 years, Ford has built a dynamic portfolio, which, he told us in an Office Hours talk all comes down to his belief in “the magic of food.” But, as he revealed during that recent discussion, love of one’s craft alone doesn’t make a business run. In a bonus Q&A, he shared the daily habits that help him get it all done.
Self-care & Attitude
What does self-care mean to you?
Taking the time to take care of myself. Checking in with myself to make sure I am fulfilling my emotional, mental, physical and spiritual needs. Eating properly, doing something physical each day are examples of the way I like to take care of myself. As a result, I am more apt to be a better husband, father, and partner.
How do you “turn off” at the end of the day?
At the end of each day I like to focus on my family. Being present for them helps me focus on life away from work. Later, I take the dogs on a walk and return to meditate before bed.
Workspace & Routine
Do you have a workspace at home? Tell us about it. Did you have this space before the pandemic?
I have always had a home office. I do a lot of food testing, writing and research out of my home. I don’t have a commercial kitchen in my home but I do have a wood fire test kitchen where I can do a lot of the live fire testing that I wouldn’t normally be able to do at the restaurant.
Was/is your family home more too? What do you enjoy about it? What do you find challenging?
We are all in the home for the majority of the day. For years I have had an office in an outbuilding separate from the main house where I could write and do my creative work. With COVID, my wife who is a psychotherapist required the space. So out of respect for her clients, it was important that we create a quiet space for her to conduct her sessions. I relocated back inside the main home where it’s much more difficult to control my environment.
I do enjoy working from home as a rule. I have a very eclectic job and throughout the day I will have to wear quite a few different hats. Moving smoothly from one unrelated task to the next requires being organized; it’s important to take notes and to have a proactive mindset. You also have to be present in the moment regardless of the task at hand.
Time & Organization
How do you approach the workday? One block of time that’s over at 6pm? An ongoing thing with personal stuff interspersed?
For me it’s an ongoing thing. I review my schedule first thing in the morning as part of my routine. My son is 10 years old and it’s important that I make time for him each day, aside from taking him to school and sports practice.
What are three things you do each morning to prepare for the day?
Short 10 min meditation, walk my dogs, breathing exercises or physical exercise to wake me up and center myself.
How do (or don’t) you separate business tasks from personal ones?
I keep a detailed schedule. I try to conduct all my meetings in the morning when my thoughts are less cluttered and I while I still have control of the day. By the afternoon, it’s harder to be proactive in my tasks as the outside world begins to creep into my thoughts and my agenda. Getting up early before the household has awaken is key.
Hacks & Habits
Is there any one thing you’ve cut out of your life in order to be more effective?
I am always trying to eliminate fear.
Is there any one thing you’ve added to your life in order to be more effective?
If I was going to say one thing it would be meditation. But that’s not enough.
What is the work task you least like to do? How do you get yourself to do it?
Well, it was filing, but that is now a part of the past in most cases. It’s removing clutter. I do a lot of research and I can accumulate a lot prior to organizing
Tell us about a time when things didn’t go your way, and how you responded?
I think I have been lucky at times when things initially didn’t go my way. In retrospect most of the times I was disappointed with the outcome of someone else’s decisions it’s been for the best. It’s the universe telling me something.
This interview is part of Office Hours, a series that connects you with entrepreneurs and experts with tips for running and growing a business right now. Find other can’t-miss conversations by visiting our Events page.