Byline: Marcy Medina
BEVERLY HILLS — In a land dominated by whitewashed stucco and modern glass architecture, historic brick houses are a rare and welcome sight. To the delight of locals and foodies from afar, one such building along a charming shop-lined stretch of Beverly Drive is now home to Los Angeles’s hottest new restaurant.
Owner and co-chef Benjamin Ford (son of Harrison) has opened Chadwick, his tribute to California’s organic bounty with a decidedly elegant twist. Ford, 34, who trained in the kitchens of San Francisco’s Chez Panisse and L.A.’s Campanile, left his most recent post as head chef at The Farm in Beverly Hills in 1998 to concentrate on finding a location for his first restaurant.
“We had actually given up on L.A. and were on our way up to Santa Barbara,” Ford said. But by a stroke of good luck, the landmark brick Tudor cottage formerly occupied by Chez Helene and Bistro K came up for lease, and Ford snapped it up last December. He wanted to “make a statement,” so seven months were spent gutting the dark, low-ceilinged interior and re-creating a more open, lighter space.
“I felt as if this house had been in the family for generations and it had been handed down to me. It was my job to contemporize it while respecting its past,” Ford said. Architect Thomas Beeton gave the new restaurant a warm, light-filled Craftsman-style interior, with ebony- stained floors, dark wooden tables and chairs, banquettes lined with spice-colored silk pillows and french doors that open up onto a stone terrace. “I wanted people to have a sense of the craft that goes on in the kitchen,” he said.
Ford uses vegetables from his quarter-acre home garden and a larger plot in Toluca Lake. An herb garden in the back provides an emergency supply of thyme, rosemary, lavender and verbena. The menu, printed daily, features fare like pan-roasted breast of squab and foie gras with porcini ragout and black bass with lobster-stuffed squash blossom and oak-roasted tomato coulis that keeps Sidney Poitier, Stockard Channing and dozens of media-shy celebrities coming back for more.
“I watch all the plates come back to the kitchen, and they usually don’t have anything on them,” Ford said. “That’s a good sign. Another good sign is that 70 percent of the customers stay for dessert.” (Most popular is the S’mores Tart created by pastry chef Angela Hunter, formerly of L’Ermitage).
Next on Ford’s agenda is a nearby bakery and breakfast spot to supply Chadwick and its future catering company with fresh-baked bread.
“Restaurants like this are few and far between,” said Ford, who relishes the perks of operating in his home turf versus northern California: “I like the free Lakers tickets.”