Ben Ford's Summer Sizzle

The chef-restaurateur serves up Texas-style barbecue with all the fixin's. 

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Summer Sizzle Actual Slide 1


Cooking for a crowd comes naturally to Ben Ford, who helms two Los Angeles locations of his gastropub-inspired restaurant, Ford’s Filling Station, where he wows guests with everything from a whole hog dinner to Baja fish tacos. But Ben is still happiest when he’s working the grill at a party. “I married a woman from Texas, so barbecue’s a major part of my repertoire,” Ben says. At the height of summer, he’ll often round up the family—wife Emily, sons Ethan, 14, and Waylon, 5—and head for the wide-open spaces of the Gallagher Ranch near San Antonio, owned by Emily’s godfather, Chris Hill. Since the 1830s the sprawling Mexican hacienda has been, variously, a military supply depot, a cattle farm and a celebrity dude ranch. “It’s still the Wild West here,” Ben says. To celebrate the surroundings, the couple likes to invite neighbors over for a locally inspired meal. “In cowboy country that means only one thing—beef brisket smoked over native wood, like white oak or mesquite,” explains Ben. Classic chuck wagon sides like mac and cheese and Dutch oven baked beans play a supporting role. The decor couldn’t be more impromptu or relaxed— trademarks of a chef whose menus are built around what’s fresh at the greenmarket and on the farm. “I just want everyone to enjoy the feast and go home well-fed,” Ben says. “And with leftovers.” 

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Summer Sizzle Slide 1


Guests help themselves at the one-stop drink station stocked with plenty of beer, sun tea and lemonade. 


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Summer Sizzle Slide 3


Ben enjoys his downtime on the patio. “Southerners always have good stories to tell,” he says. Homespun linens plus rugged metal and wood accessories complement the rustic outdoor setting.

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“It’s not a celebration without kids,” says Ben, who likes a table that’s as casual as the meal. “The drinks, the music, the right atmosphere—these are all important parts of the party,” he explains. “If things are laid-back, it’s likely your guests will have more fun.


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Summer Sizzle Slide 5


Handpicked wildflowers and vintage spurs at each place setting lend Lone Star flair.


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Emily shares her lemonade with Waylon. 


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Chris Hill savors the meal.