How I got here: Gordon Ker

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Gordon Ker Blacklock

Related tags: Blacklock, Casual dining, Steak

A former lawyer, Gordon Ker founded Blacklock in 2013. Specialising in affordably-priced chops, the restaurant was named Best New Scaleable Concept at Restaurant magazine's R200 Awards last year.

Why restaurants?
I’d been working with restaurants and hotels for a while and always wanted to start and build my own business. I’ve got a thing for chops, particularly lamb, and had an idea to bring back the old British Chophouse which had kind of fallen away, serving the best quality meat for the best value. I went for it, I quit my job as a lawyer and went to work as a waiter at Hawksmoor. 

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
I got some pretty honest warnings and intel from Hawksmoor founders Will Beckett and Huw Gott at the beginning so felt like I had my eyes open, but nothing can prepare you for what’s to come. It’s important for anyone starting out to know that restaurants are about a lot of things other than just selling food and drink and making sure people have fun - your day can be anything from property, sorting broken equipment, finance to the dreaded power failure, or all of the above and more.

What do you do in your spare time?
I like to swim, it’s about the only exercise I can do that means I have to switch off from work and put emails down.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your current one)?
Dishoom.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in restaurants?
I was a lawyer but I always wanted to set up my own business and build something. I like seeing people grow and I like creating experiences. If it wasn’t restaurants I think I would have gone into hotels and still hope to be able to one day.

What motivates you?
Blacklock being a great place to work. I’m motivated by seeing our people happy in their jobs, developing and taking on new challenges. We have lots of growth stories, like Chris who started as a waiter and over the last two years has developed into head waiter, assistant restaurant manager and he’s just graduating our Manager 90 programme to be Restaurant Manager at Shoreditch. Never promoted because of a hole, always on merit. That’s pretty cool and makes me happy. I’d like him to get to GM one day and build a pipeline where others can do the same through our training programmes.

Where was your last holiday?
I just had a weekend away in Berlin with my wife. We got married there and love to take a few nights away in the city. Berlin House is my favourite place to stay and the city has a relaxed and warm culture. Before that...hmmm. Maybe I need a holiday.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
Will Beckett. Like us, Will puts his people first, but he has been influential in paving the way for a job in hospitality to be a great and rewarding career with Hawksmoor named as one of the Sunday Times Best Companies to work for the last six years. We hope to emulate that at Blacklock.

What keeps you up at night?
TripAdvisor and the weather.

Worst business decision?
Too many. I’m always learning, we have a great team filled with great people. Little falls are embraced among us all and we all try and move forward and get better together.

Best business decision?
Definitely more luck than best decision, but at the beginning, I had no experience and no track record, but became mates with Matt Chatfield (The Cornwall Project) who introduced us to butchers Philip and Ian Warren. We had a plan to serve the best meat in the country for the very best value for money and despite being very green, they bought into that and are now our closest partners and strongest relationship.

What are you reading at the moment?
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
Lots of people say it’s not what you know it’s who you know, I believe that nothing can replace hard work and a desire to get it done. Someone far wiser than me once told me to knock on and open every door. I think that was pretty bang on.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
Not just for the restaurant industry but we are talking a lot about email at the moment and removing such a reliance on email correspondence and who needs to see what. It’s a great tool but can take over and force you into fire fighting urgent things that crop up that might get in the way of bigger planning.

Blacklock Shoreditch will open on Rivington Street on 8 October

CV 

1984 Born in London 
Studied Law at UCL 
2008-2013 Lawyer, Olswang, London 
2013 Waiter, Hawksmoor 
2014 - Present Founder, Blacklock

Related topics: People

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