"This was my very, very first foray. I never really liked competitive things. I was a little worried, because I don't perform very well on tests.", says Chef Ford, but his approach of staying true to himself brought him an impressive second place showing.
"I felt like it was my time and it was an amazing opportunity."
"I think I showcased myself.", he continued.” You're in a competition against 19 other amazing pastry chefs and they all bring their different outlooks, techniques, and talents. You kind of want to jump the gun. I think a lot of times people stray away from what they know, and they try to do things that will shock people. That was one thing that I struggled with, but looking back on what I did and I [am] extremely proud of each [dessert] I did, because it was who I am, and I would serve what I did there in my restaurant."
Clearly a first time competitor would have more than butterflies in the stomach, but Chef Ford approached it like a seasoned professional. "I was a little nervous, because I've never done anything like that. When you put all the big names and the StarChefs and New York and the prizes it's a little intimidating."
I asked Chef Ford how he dealt with the pressure of the competition,
"I really did just pretend that was working in the restaurant minus the 1000 people around me and the lights."
He describes working in the kitchens at the competition as, "3 days in Heaven". He had the opportunity to work with some impressive equipment, but stayed away from things like the Bravo Machines that allow a chef to make things like pate au choux by simply adding the ingredients and pushing button. "A lot of my job is self-gratification. I tend to do things the hard way almost, because I like the hard work involved with it and seeing the beautiful product at the end, instead of just pushing a button." Mostly, however, he was excited to work with the all natural flavor pastes from PreGel who was the main sponsor of the competition.
Chef Ford’s approach to his desserts and his plates is a combination of the natural and geometric. Constantly wanting to explore the contrast between the natural world and the man-made world. On his blog – Butter, Love, and Hard work – you see beautiful examples of this approach. A perfect quenelle of sherbet atop a torn pieces of Basil Pound Cake. A pile of Oreo crumbs with a perfect cylinder of frozen pistachio crème. These are perfect examples of Chef Ford’s approach.
Taking his first Pasty Chef position recently at Trummers on Main in Clifton, VA, he made a big move from the bright lights and breakneck pace of New York City to the slower pace of Virgina, but not before spending time as an assistant at Pastry Chef Chika Tillaman’s Chikalicious Dessert Bar.
"When I worked in New York I was pretty much the Sous Chef for Chicka Tillman. I had a lot of influence with her in the two years I was there. She's very much a 50-50 person. She has the final say, but she really let me grow as a chef and taught me a lot."
When asked about the move from NYC to Virgina Chef Ford says, “If anything I found myself in Virginia. I was really excited farms and the countryside. Orlando is very similar. It reminds me a little bit of home. I think I'm really inspired by nature. Seeing stuff in farms, seeing stuff in farmer's markets, and there's a lot of that here."
As mentioned Chef Ford maintains his blog “Butter, Love, and Hard Work”. Something that had been an idea for over a year before he started it. Started originally as a place to showcase his photography it really has turned into yet another creative outlet. “As long as I’m doing something creative I can do it for hours on end.” Says Chef Ford. He also uses the blog as a way to chronicle the outlook and growth of a young chef.
Before I ended my conversation with Chef Ford I wanted to know his what desserts he’d want to have if he had one day left on Earth. Anyone who has worked in a professional kitchen has played this game at least once, but dessert seems to take a backseat to the main course. Chef Ford’s three desserts would be
I asked Chef Ford if we can expect to see him participating in more competitions. "It definitely gets you hooked, it's like a tattoo during it you never want to do it again, but afterwards you come back for more." His parting note was some very simple advice for anyone considering culinary competition, "Stay true to yourself.” Obviously this approach is working great for Chef Ford.
Check out Chef Fords new Web site www.butterloveandhardwork.com