Ben Ford is half city boy, half cowboy. Co-chef and owner of Chadwick, in Beverly Hills, the 35-year-old Ford's roots lie both in Hollywood, California, where he was raised and in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. That's where his father, the actor Harrison Ford, bought a ranch 20 years ago and where Ben spent many summers.
"I've been doing dinners at my father's ranch since I was in my early twenties," Ford says. "It used to be really hard--it took two days to shop." He once drove for hours from town to town, looking for the perfect tomato. Now, he reports, seasonal ingredients are easier to come by in Jackson Hole, and he can also order exotic ingredients, like chanterelles, through local chefs. It is astonishing how cosmopolitan the once-sleepy town has become. Strolling along the few streets, with their charming restaurants, you might forget you're in Wyoming--until you look up and see the Tetons looming green ("for four months," Ford laughs) behind the clapboard houses.
It's just as well Jackson Hole has become such a mini food mecca, because fresh ingredients are essential in Ford's cooking. As he readily admits, he didn't name his restaurant after Alan Chadwick, the late British-born education pioneer and guru of organic gardening, just because of the all-organic menu. Ford was lucky enough to know the man personally, since Ford's uncle, Paul Lee, helped bring Chadwick to the University of California at Santa Cruz to do agricultural research. Chadwick was a Renaissance man: He studied painting and worked professionally as a violinist and--for several decades--as a Shakespearean actor. In the 1950s, when he was in his early forties, Chadwick became deeply involved in theories of gardening. He combined the ideas behind sustainable organic agriculture with French intensive gardening techniques to grow more produce in limited spaces--and to form the basis of a larger philosophy. "He believed in the garden as a place of contact, an arena that could inspire people in different ways, a teaching tool," Ford says. "For instance, he'd have people learn passages from Shakespeare there."