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Luke Ford

Interview with Luke Ford

Luke FordLuke Ford, West Coast Brand Ambassador for Beefeater and Plymouth Gin, got his start in the hospitality business at 13 when he began his first job as a busboy at an Italian restaurant in his hometown of Detroit. It didn’t take long for him to realize how much he enjoyed working in the industry. Since then, Ford has held just about every position in all types of bars and restaurants, and in 2008 he moved to Los Angeles and worked a few different jobs within hospitality before becoming a bartender at Seven Grand. His love for the industry continued to grow throughout his five years at Seven Grand, and in July of 2014, he left to become the West Coast Brand Ambassador for Beefeater and Plymouth Gin. He recently sat down with Joshua Harris of The Bon Vivants (and Pig & Punch) to talk about what the industry means to him and how he winds down when he’s not working.

Joshua Harris: What do you enjoy most about your job?
Luke Ford: I think the most obvious is that I get to go and hang out with some of the most amazing people in this industry at some of the best bars around. It just never gets old. Going to all these different fantastic cities and seeing what people are doing—that’s probably the best part. It’s just really fun being able to share the excitement and the brands with others.

JH: A lot of people in our business have the opportunity to travel and see different cities and countries around the world. What is your not-to-be-missed destination?
LF: I think non-work-related, the most amazing, beautiful place I’ve ever been is South Africa. I just instantly fell in love. We were working at an orphanage outside of Durban, in the KwaZulu-Natal province, which is this Zulu Nation that is absolutely breathtaking. For work, I think some of the best times I’ve had travel-wise were recently when I went to London for a brand summit. London is just electric. The city is magical and the brands I work on are so tied into the English culture. So that trip to London was pretty eye-opening as far as what’s going on in the world of spirits and cocktails.

JH: Tell us about your favorite fine-dining experience.
LF: I did the Chef’s Table at The Bazaar in Los Angeles, which is Jose Andres’ restaurant. It was definitely the most bizarre meal I’ve ever had. I had not seen that kind of molecular gastronomy. That was kind of a pivotal moment for me, having a meal like that when I didn’t even know you could have a 15-course meal where one after the other, each dish was something that you would never even imagine could be done with food. And then a few months ago, when Liho Liho opened in San Francisco, I kind of lost my mind. The food was so tasty. That wasn’t necessarily fine dining—it’s got a very casual almost diner-like setting, but with food that is out of this world.

JH: What’s your favorite spot to grab street food?
LF: Where I grew up in Michigan we had Coney Islands, but it’s not the same type of Coney Island like they have in New York. When you say Coney Island to anyone from Detroit, you know what they’re talking about—it’s a little diner with Coney dogs. There are two camps in downtown: there’s American and there’s Lafayette. So you can get an American that’s got chili and mustard on it, but if you get it at Lafayette it’s got chili, onions and mustard. And you have to pick. I want be the one that picks both because they’re both so good, but you can’t not pick. I guess if I had to pick I would go for the Lafayette. It’s just really good.

JH: The line between work and play gets blurry with jobs like ours. Obviously we love what we do for a living, but it’s still work. When you can completely detach from work, what do you like to do?
LF: When I have time to myself I like to just shut down and be by myself. I’ll throw on some Hulu or something and shut my brain off for a few hours. I’ll just watch Seinfeld or something. I like to play music or just listen to music, or go be by myself, get coffee and gather my thoughts.

JH: When you’re at your local bar or at home and you have a bottle of Beefeater or Plymouth and you want to make yourself a drink, how do you like to have it?
LF: At home, it’s either a gin and soda or gin and tonic with Beefeater. We also have our own tonic syrup, and I find it to be absolutely delicious. With Plymouth I don’t hesitate to mix up a Martini. I usually keep a bottle of the Navy Strength in my freezer so I can just quickly do a 50/50 with some Dolin and a dash of orange bitters.

JH: How do you garnish it?
LF: A lemon twist. If I’m drinking a 50/50 martini I like to have a Gibson, but I don’t keep cocktail onions in my apartment right now.

JH: It seems like your company, Pernod Ricard, has definitely aligned itself with some philanthropic efforts. What is it that you feel is synergistic with Pernod Ricard and Pig & Punch?
LF: I think Pernod Ricard, as a whole, spends a lot on the trade but in ways that give back. What you guys do with Pig & Punch is you throw kick-ass parties and it’s an epic time that everybody wants to be a part of. It’s a great way for people to get to know each other and have a great time, but the best part about those events is that you’re giving back a huge amount of monetary value and your time to people that really need it. The Pig & Punch Volunteer Day is an incredible opportunity to get together and have an amazing time while being able to give something back that you can’t even quantify.

JH: Finally, some rapid fire questions…

JH: Night owl or early bird?
LF: Night owl.

JH: Coffee or tea?
LF: Coffee.

JH: Football or fútbol?
LF: Fútbol.

JH: Beach or mountains?
LF: Mountains.

JH: Still or sparkling?
LF: Sparkling.

JH: Forks, chopsticks or fingers?
LF: Forks.

JH: I think you’re the first person of everyone we’ve interviewed who said forks.
LF: They’re liars!


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