On the Line: Gene Hobel Of Blake's Place, Part Two

Sports. Sales. Salmon. With just under 20 years of restaurant ownership under his belt, Gene Hobel has a lot of ground to cover with us. Not all of it is about food, either.

The details are meatier in part one. So why haven't you checked it out?

Hardest lesson you've learned:
The hardest lesson is that it never gets easier. When you're first starting out you are stressed because everything is new, you're building your customer base and working to support yourself and your employees. Once you have a successful business, those problems may not remain, but you have a whole new set of issues to deal with. I'm thankful to be able to earn a living doing what I love, but that doesn't mean it doesn't come without its difficulties.


Last thing you looked up/searched online:
Cars and yachts. I'm always dreaming.

What's your favorite childhood memory?
Road trips and traveling with my family. I was lucky to have parents that introduced me to different cultures and places.

Where did you grow up, and where's home these days?
I was born in New York. My family moved to Brentwood in West Los Angeles when I was four years old. In high school I moved to Whittier. I moved around Orange County over the years, and attended school in San Francisco. These days I live in Anaheim Hills.

Tell us something most people don't know about you.
That I truly, truly think of my employees as my family. I believe it and I live it. I pay them better than some other places because I believe they need to have a living wage. You can't work well when you're stressing about living.

You have a loyal team. How long have some of them been working for you? And weren't you involved in one of their weddings?
I've been open almost 20 years, but I have four employees that have been with me 24 years. Sometimes you hear about high turnover at a restaurant, but that's not really the case here. I have many employees who have been with me between 10 and 20 years. Natasha, our Catering Manager, started off as a cashier in our cafe at 17 years old, 20 years ago. I only have a son, but she honored me by asking me to give her away at her wedding in 2007. It was a special moment.

You have a whole day to yourself; what do you do?
I do things that I find relaxing. I take my dog to the park or the beach, take a bike ride and do fun things with my son.

What's your favorite childhood memory?
Road trips and traveling with my family. I was lucky to have parents that introduced me to different cultures and places.

You have quite a bit of sports memorabilia in your office. Tell us about the collection.
Sports is a huge part of my life and I've received a lot of cool gifts over the years. I've catered for the Raiders, the Angels, the Ducks and more, and through those relationships I've ended up with a couple of cool items including an Angeles jersey and a Ducks jersey that I really love. Go Anaheim!

Last book you read or last movie watched; how was it?
I don't read much, so movies. The last movie I saw was “Ted 2.” It wasn't quite as good as the first, but it was pretty entertaining. The more we laugh, the better life is.

Do you have any skills that have nothing to do with food?
Needlepoint! No, just kidding. Coaching and mentoring. I've coached youth sports for many years and the opportunity guide our youth to become better citizens is a passion of mine.

What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
Sales. I love talking to people.

Is there anything you'd like readers to know that we haven't asked?
Yes! Most people think of ribs, brisket and pulled pork when they think BBQ, but we also smoke prime rib (on Fridays), chicken wings and legs, hamburgers (on Wednesdays), salmon and more!

Follow Stick a Fork In It on Twitter @ocweeklyfood, Facebook, and Instagram! And don't forget to download our free Best Of App here!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *