Who We Are?

___

About Us

We create, identify and manage unique and original F&B concepts and opportunities across Asia with our head office in Hong Kong. Working with talented F&B professionals, our core expertise in an ability to collaborate with landowners in creating compelling F&B concepts that stand the test of time by maintaining relevance in the community.  

Our award winning portfolio includes La Rambla by Catalunya located in Hong Kong’s iconic IFC, Wagyumafia Yakinikumafia Hong Kong, the first international outposts of culinary sensation Hisato Hamada and.  The Diplomat, Best New Entry 2021 and voted on of the best bars in the world.

Driving our shop growth are multi-location brands Mortys (American Deli), Mashi no Mashi (Wagyu Ramen) and Elephant Grounds (Lifestyle Specialty Coffee).

In 2019, we established expanded our operations into mainland China with the opening of Elephant Grounds in Beijing (Sanlitun), Chengdu (Taikoo li) and Guangzhou (Taikoo Hui).  In early 2020, we opened our first international Mashi no Mashil location in Tokyo.

All Our Brands

View More

MANAGEMENT

Rafa Gil

EXECUTIVE CHEF,
LA RAMBLA BY CATALUNYA

Mario Paecke

CHEF DE CUISINE, MARGO

John Nugent

GROUP BEVERAGE DIRECTOR

Yohei Yamamoto

EXECUTIVE CHEF, JAPANESE CUISINE

Elvis Lo

GROUP SOMMELIER

Nicholas Leung

DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS

After honing his culinary skills working with Michelin-starred Spanish Chef Martín Berasategui and Chef Santi Santamaria, Chef Rafa uprooted his life in 2012 to help open Catalunya in Singapore, his first foray into Asia, with just three months to open the restaurant. He then moved to Hong Kong in 2013 to join the opening team of Catalunya Hong Kong. Since then, he has thrived in Asia’s fast-paced dining industry, spearheading the transformation of Ozone at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong into a speakeasy dubbed Rafa’s Private Kitchen.

Chef Rafa embarked on a life-changing experience to Los Angeles in 2017, combining his unique understanding of Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine and 11 Westside chef-owner Edras Ochoa’s wealth of exotic street food experience to bring home a semi-finalist finish in Netflix’s hit show "The Final Table". Chef Rafa then brought his creative flair to W Hong Kong, heading up the hotel’s restaurants, before returning to La Rambla to take the restaurant back to its roots.

Chef Paecke’s expertise in fine-dining is a result of his 23 year career spent at world-renowned restaurants. His journey began in Germany, where he was an apprentice at the Hotel zum Storchen. After gaining ample experience in Europe, Paecke first helmed the kitchen as Chef de Cuisine in the Michelin-starred Luce d’Oro. His talent was soon discovered by the Mandarin Oriental Group in 2007, where he refined culinary techniques and led his team as Chef de Cuisine of SOMM, at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong by 2017.

Paecke seeks inspiration from local-grown ingredients in the cosmopolitan which he lives and loves. “I have never seen a city like Hong Kong, that can be the home of such a large variety of cuisines around the world.”  He envisions a naturalistic concept in which original flavours of ingredients are enhanced using traditional Bavarian cooking methods.

With a string of impressive accolades in his stride, John Nugent hails from Seattle and first appeared on the American bar scene at the age of 22. He trained extensively in the art of classic cocktails and recently oversaw the cocktail programme for Chef Albert Adria’s Asia pop-ups.

Recognized for his precision and passion, Nugent has won a number of prestigious competitions including Cocktail Wars and the Cognac Experience Cocktail Competition. He was also nominated Best Bartender in Hong Kong by Johnnie Walker and named Hospitality Ambassador of 2018 by Fever Tree.

Since moving to Hong Kong in 2017, and a fruitful tenure at Lily & Bloom, Nugent continues to bring his flair – a combination of worldly knowledge and bold techniques – to the local cocktail dialogue. Stay tuned for more information on The Diplomat.

Originally from Shizuoka, Japan, Chef Yohei has lived in Hong Kong since 2010, after completing his culinary training program in Calgary, Canada in 2002. Chef Yohei honed his craft at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Hong Kong for five years prior to taking the helm WAGYUMAFIA Hong Kong as Chef de Cuisine.

Creating a fun and unforgettable dining experience each evening, Chef Yohei quickly become a brand icon. His culinary artistry at WAGYUMAFIA is lauded for seasonal menus that authentically blend high quality Japanese ingredients with classic Cantonese cuisine in novel and exquisite ways. With his exceptional creativity, Chef Yohei adds a unique dimension to WAGYUMAFIA dining, found only in Hong Kong.

It was a sip of Bordeaux 1970s that channeled Elvis' passion for wine. He was working at the French Bistro whence he found the worldly knowledge of wine and its history fascinating, and led him to pursue a career as a Sommelier.  

Since 2016, Elvis has immersed himself in the study of wine, and made it his personal mission to provide guests the best wine and dine experience. Following his passion, he became a *certified Sommelier*. His talent was soon discovered and he joined Leading Nations in 2018, overseeing the wine program in several Japanese restaurants including Wagyumafia and Sushi Mamoru. To excel in his role, he became a certified Sake Sommelier. Upon his progression in the hospitality group he built an impressive program of Spanish wines for La Rambla —  one of the most extensive collections in Hong Kong, and tirelessly educated staff and diners about wine.

Originally from the North East of Scotland, Nicholas began working in a small family pub where he got his first taste of hospitality. During his studies at the Aberdeen University, he continued working in various restaurants and bars where he found his passion in the industry. Upon graduating, Nicholas ran the award winning Society B.A.R and opened the first table service nightclub in Aberdeen called Aurum.

In 2010, Nicholas moved to Hong Kong where he joined the Landmark Mandarin Oriental. Working under the tutelage of Richard Ekkebus, he operated the MO Bar and Amber. After 7 years with Mandarin Oriental, he furthered his managerial experience at the Rosewood Hotel Group. Working alongside group Vice President Ivan Suardi, he developed numerous expansion projects in the group, before finally joining Leading Nation as the Director of Operations.

Contact Us

Gerald Li

FOUNDER

A proven operator with over 15 years of experience in food and beverage. Gerald’s keen eye for trends and strategic approach has armed him with an acute understanding of niche concepts. His entrepreneurial streak started in Hong Kong with the launch of Liberty Private Works, followed by one of the city’s most highly regarded bars, Central Liberty Exchange. Sensing market changes ahead, Gerald co-launched Elephant Grounds with Kevin Poon, which immediately appealed to a pivoting audience segment and laid strong foundations for Leading Nation’s expanding portfolio. In 2014, Gerald engaged the famed el Bulli team to create Spanish concept La Rambla (previously Catalunya), and more recently, he introduced WAGYUMAFIA to Hong Kong, partnering with chef-owner Hisato Hamada to lead the Tokyo-based brand’s international expansion.

Kevin Poon

CO-FOUNDER

Kevin doesn’t sit still. The multipreneur’s various interests place him at the heart of a scene in Hong Kong fixated on the latest concepts and breaking boundaries. As co-founder of fashion brand Clot, Juice, and District, he introduced many a man to the benefits of street wear, lifestyle oddities and urban culture. The founding of concept store Woaw! in Hong Kong led him into the world of food, when he converted a part of it into the first Elephant Grounds. Kevin is the creative guru for Leading Nation, lending his artistic eye and imagination to the Group’s branding strategy.

Ferran Tadeo

EXECUTIVE CHEF

Executive Chef Ferran Tadeo brings his creativity and years of culinary innovation to La Rambla.

Born in Barcelona, Chef Ferran spent almost a decade under the tutelage of such Michelin-starred chefs as Ferran and Albert Adrià (el Bulli, Tickets) and Chef Sergi Arola (Arola). Mastering the nuances of Catalan cuisine, he opened El Nacional de Barcelona, currently the go-to destination for Spanish food in Barcelona.

Known for delivering brilliant flavours with a creative flair, Chef Ferran was recruited by award-winning chef José Andrés to work at his eponymous Minibar in Washington D.C. Hailed by critics as one of America’s most progressive restaurants; The Washington Post began its review with the heading: “If you want to taste the future, Minibar is the Place.

John Nugent

BARTENDER

With a string of impressive accolades in his stride, John Nugent hails from Seattle and first appeared on the American bar scene at the age of 22. He trained extensively in the art of classic cocktails and recently oversaw the cocktail programme for Chef Albert Adria’s Asia pop-ups.

Recognized for his precision and passion, Nugent has won a number of prestigious competitions including Cocktail Wars and the Cognac Experience Cocktail Competition. He was also nominated Best Bartender in Hong Kong by Johnnie Walker and named Hospitality Ambassador of 2018 by Fever Tree.

Since moving to Hong Kong in 2017, and a fruitful tenure at Lily & Bloom, Nugent continues to bring his flair – a combination of worldly knowledge and bold techniques – to the local cocktail dialogue. Stay tuned for more information on The Diplomat.

We're Hiring

At Leading Nation, we are always on the lookout for talented individuals. If you are interested in joining us, please email your resumes: careers@leadingnation.com

View Jobs

Join our mailing list

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.