It was the quickening of life—and food—in America that troubled Ford, who has three West Coast restaurants, including the much lauded Ford's Filling Station in Culver City, Calif. As people have focused more on speed and ease, they've lost touch with the routines of cooking, routines that give food both meaning and flavor.
"My appreciation for the pace of life and the pace of cooking really comes from the foundations of cooking," he said during an interview Saturday at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. "The more involved you are in food, the more committed you are to the process of cooking, the better the results."
Which runs contrary to the 30-minutes-at-most mantra that defines so much of America's relationship with food at the moment. But reversing that is much of why Ford cooks.
"I grew up during a time, I'm 48 years old, when I got to watch all my favorite little fish stores and meat butchers and guys get swallowed up into the large food chains or by the mall effect," he said. "We really at that time lost our routines. The routines of life, the processes of life to gather our food, to garden, these processes" matter deeply.
And those sort of routines are at the heart of his upcoming cookbook, "Taming the Feast," a gorgeous collection of recipes for meals that revel in the sensuality of cooking for friends. Though the meals can be measured in hours or days, rather than consumer-friendly minutes, the recipes nonetheless feel inviting and approachable.
It requires an appreciation for food Ford knows can be a lot to ask of people. But he likens it to physical fitness, something we sometimes do simply because we know we should.
"Sometimes it's like going to work out," he said. "I force myself, too."