This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.MORE INFO
Menu Close
You may not know Gerald Li by name, but you certainly know his restaurants. After co-founding Hong Kong-based hospitality group Leading Nation with Kevin Poon, the restaurant entrepreneur has gone on to spearhead some of the city’s (and Asia’s) most beloved eateries including Elephant Grounds and new favourites like The Hawk & Aster. Here, as part of The Style Sheet’s Day in the Life series, we follow Gerald around for a day to discover his typical routine and go-to foodie haunts in the neighbourhood.
Restaurant entrepreneur Gerald Li is one of the founders of Elephant Grounds through his brand Leading Nation


‘Coffee before anything else. I’m at our Elephant Grounds Starstreet shop almost every morning for a coffee run with my wife before taking her into work. She’s moving to Taikoo Place 2 soon, so I'm not sure what we’re going to do then. The days I’m not at Elephant Grounds usually means I’m travelling. Work trips have begun to return to pre-COVID norms, so I’ve been travelling more often to our shops in the Greater Bay Area and Tokyo connecting with our partners there. We have restaurants throughout the region including our Elephant Grounds shop in Manila and Mashi no Mashi in Sydney.’

Gerald is a frequent visitor to his restaurants, and starts most days with coffee at Elephant Grounds in Starstreet Precinct


‘I’m in the office before nine o’clock to try and get ahead of everything because I constantly have different projects taking shape. For more than ten years now, I’ve been in a constant state of build-outs, construction, events and activations. The Hawk & Aster at Pacific Place opened recently in August and since then we’ve launched two new restaurants. Mornings are usually packed with meetings with designers, contractors and my internal marketing teams. We have five openings coming up in the next three months, so we also have pre-opening meetings with our operations teams now. We finish with those appointments before lunch so my operations teams can return in time for service to take care of our guests.’

Gerald regularly visits all of Leading Nation’s restaurants to catch up with the operations teams and make sure everything is running smoothly


‘I usually work through lunch if no appointments are scheduled, and order a salad from SaladStop! or a sandwich from Morty’s. No frills and no fuss. But I do find lunches with clients, vendors, landlords and business partners to be very beneficial.  Breaking bread with them creates stronger relationships. If I’m not dining at one of our restaurants then you can probably find me at Lobster Bar. The revamp by Chef Uwe has really taken shape, and I love their prime rib. Also, the Island Shangri-La is easily my favourite hotel in Hong Kong — I interned there for two summers back when I was in university, and more importantly it’s where my wife and I were married.’


‘In the afternoons, I’m either on site to check construction progress or I head over to a couple of the restaurants to touch base with the managers. It's very important for me to have a strong connection with all my managers and head chefs so I can get a pulse of what’s happening in the restaurant. We’re close to twenty outlets now, so I really count on them to run the businesses.’

With the group opening several new venues, Gerald often finds himself at construction sites in the afternoon

Early Evening

‘During openings, I spend a lot of time at the new restaurant before and during service. I make sure operations are running as intended, make quick changes and put out fires, so to speak. Openings are exhausting but also quite fun, as I get to spend more time with my management teams and see how they’ve progressed on a professional level. Once operations are stable, I reach out to my trainer at Strength Culture and Fight Culture. I love how they mix in strength and conditioning programmes with Muay Thai.’


‘I try to get home in time to hang out with the kids. My eldest is in her pre-teen/early teenage years, which is an important time. On date nights, my wife and I usually rotate between a few of our favourite restaurants. Our go-to spot is definitely yakitori at Machiya in Tai Hang. Then we often head to The Diplomat if it's not too late. We love John’s cocktails, and the team is very friendly.’