How To Host A Pig Roast & Throw Epic (But Doable) Food Fiestas
Ben Ford is a native Angeleno and undoubtedly one of the city's first nose-to-tail chefs. He was born and raised in the Hollywood Hills, is the chef/owner of Ford's Filling Station in Culver City, and is a huge school gardens activist. His passion for good food clearly extends to his love of throwing a good party. For Ford, that doesn't just mean a couple cute cheese plates and some sliders. He goes big.
More and more home cooks and enthusiasts are wanting to do the same these days, as evidenced by our Instagram feeds full of whole pig roasts, abalone cookouts, and clam bakes. But what does it take to pull off a feast at that scale? First and foremost, a lot of planning.
Ben Ford's new book "Taming The Feast" serves as a road map for those looking to throw massive block parties fit for a king. It includes diagrams and step-by-step guides to make a massive fete go off without a hitch.
We chatted with him about where he got the knack for throwing massive parties, the importance of prep work, and why he chose to shoot and test the book in L.A.
LAist: This is not a simple DIY book. Many of the feasts require a week's worth of prep, some even tracking back a month in advance. Is this book more of a reference tool and coffee table piece like "Modernist Cuisine," or is it meant to be something people actually could use?
Ben Ford: It’s actually very approachable. Once you get used to this type of cooking it’s really no more difficult than anything else. And when you see how easy it is, you'll do more and more of it ... These techniques are totally approachable. The idea of cooking outside has been around for thousands of years. We’ve only been cooking in kitchens for 150. There’s a lot of history there.
So really we're just getting back to our roots. Do you find the market for this sort of thing is growing? Do you think people seem more interested in adventurous cooking for large groups?
There’s more of a market now than there’s ever been. People really want to entertain in a big way ... The thing that I see people doing the most out of the book are the clam bake and the paella and the pig. People love to cook over a flame.
Photo courtesy of Frank Ockenfels
Who was your inspiration for this huge undertaking? It must have been a beast of a book to recipe test, considering the scale of the projects and parties.
My mom was the inspiration. We were always the house where the kids would never leave. She’d have big tables of 10-15 people, and I saw the joy that she brought to people around that big table. I want to give people an outline and blueprint for that to be successful in doing just that.
I'll bet you made a lot of new friends in the process of recipe testing the book. Those parties looked epic.
As far as the big feasts were concerned, I had to do those in real time. I had to demo those to myself before I could feel comfortable releasing them to the world. A lot of them are more there to inspire and demystify on how to roast a whole pig or how to roast a paella over an open fire. We definitely went into the home kitchen and tested it for the home cook and made sure it was scalable.
You tested the book in your hometown instead of shooting it elsewhere. What makes L.A. an ideal place to throw these kinds of fetes?
Every one of these feasts was produced within 10 miles of downtown. I had to think if I wanted to go more rural and underground or go more urban in the city where I grew up in. Part of my cooking is to try to bring more terroir to the L.A. food scene. For too long we’ve been enamored with what’s going on up North, and we haven’t formulated our own style of cooking. We have these wonderful border influences and outstanding chefs in LA and its’ time that we created our own identity in food. L.A. is a unique city and it’s sprawling, but it’s still so accessible. It made the book so much better to shoot, and that much more special.