Zouheir Louhaichy, the head maître d’ at Balthazar, the perennially popular SoHo brasserie, doesn’t give just any customer his cell number. Those who have it, though, are not shy about reaching out on Sundays, his day off.
“I’ll get texts from regulars who are either desperate to get in on short notice or need help with future requests,” he said. But apparently, he doesn’t mind. “Our regulars are nice, lovely people. And it makes them feel appreciated.”
Mr. Louhaichy, 58, also the assistant general manager of Balthazar, lives in Manhattan’s Financial District with his husky, Skyler. His mother, Fatna Sougrati, 76, often stays with him, and his two daughters — Zina Louhaichy, 19, and Leila Louhaichy, 24 — will drop by. Between returning regulars’ texts on Sundays, he trains for triathlons.
ALOHA I wake up between 7:30 and 8 a.m., and I make a cappuccino. I love Hawaiian coffee because the beans are sort of a connection to Hawaii, which I love. I go there for triathlons, which is my passion. That’s what keeps me fit and sane. With my coffee, I make a bit of breakfast — generally speaking, mixed berries with some fat-free Greek yogurt and walnuts — and then I go back to bed. I basically have breakfast in bed. It’s a great time for me to unwind from the workweek. Also, later in the day I’m going to get busy, so I need that time for myself.
AFTER COFFEE, THE TEA My boss, Keith McNally, is big on Instagram. He has a tremendous amount of followers. Sunday morning, while I’m in bed, I send him an email report of the night before at the restaurant, pretty much a glimpse of everything that happened. You have the covers, how many we did, how many walked in, how many no-shows, how many canceled. Then I go into a description of how the night went, what V.I.P.s or celebrities may have walked in with friends. If there is an incident, like someone got really drunk or someone was not nice to a colleague of ours, I will do a description of that.
‘A WHOLE THING’ There are times when the shift report ends up on his Instagram. He might post it. And the thing is, that’s turned into a big hit, because nobody in the restaurant business does that. People love reading these reports. They tell me so. They say, I can’t believe so-and-so did that. They love reading about what happens behind the scenes. It could be anything: I don’t know if you heard the James Corden story that went viral, but he basically got banned for his treatment of the staff. It was a whole thing.
GO TIME I get out of bed after an hour or so, and the minute I hit the ground, my husky realizes, OK, we’re good, we’re about to leave. He gets excited. I take him to the dog park across the West Side Highway at Battery Park. While he’s busy doing his thing, I’ll read or start stretching. Because as soon as we come back, I start my Ironman training.
TRAVEL READY I raise funds for the Ironman Foundation. I’ve taken part in at least four Hawaiian Ironmans. They’re always in the fall, and this year, the men’s and women’s competitions will start rotating between Hawaii and France. This year, the women’s will be in Kona, and the men’s will be in Nice, which is where I’m headed in September. At the end of May, I’m going to Hawaii with my younger daughter Zina for a training race. She loves coming, and sometimes she’ll train with me, swimming and biking. The Hawaii trip is to prepare me for the world championship in Finland in late August.
IN THE SADDLE I have my triathlon bike in the apartment on a Wahoo, which is a smart trainer you attach to your bike so you can bike at home. Most of my training on the bike is on the Wahoo, but if the weather is nice, I could ride with my cycling friend Karim Demirdache up to Nyack. You’re looking at about 60 miles round-trip. We’ll make a quick coffee stop in Nyack and head right back. After that I might do a little run outdoors because in a triathlon, you don’t just cycle; you have to get your body used to running after you cycle, even if it’s just a short run.
OPTIONS When I come back, if my daughter is here that usually means we’ll have a Moroccan lunch with my mom. It could be a chicken tagine and some salads and little side things like briwats (phyllo triangles stuffed with meat or seafood). If she’s not here, I might go have brunch with a buddy of mine, Rockell Metcalf. He lives in SoHo, so we tend to stick around that area. There are a couple of options, like Minetta Tavern, Aurora and Emporio.
WALK THEN RUN I take a little walk back, sort of like a recovery walk, and sometimes it takes me through Chinatown. I might decide to buy some food there. I like to listen to the singer Umm Kulthum on the way back; one of her memorable songs can last an hour. Then I get back home, and it’s time for another dog run.
SIDE EYES AT SUSHI My older daughter works on Sunday at Printed Matter, an indie-type bookstore. She’s finished around 7 p.m., and my two daughters and I tend to have dinner out. We usually find ourselves going to sushi, ideally Blue Ribbon Sushi. There are two locations, and the one here in the Financial District is usually better to go to. For my own sanity, I tend to suspend judgment about the service when I’m out. But my daughters get a kick out of it if something happens. They’re on the lookout to see the look on Dad’s face. It has to be really bad, really horrendous for me to say something. I’m not out there to educate people. I just want to have a lovely time with my daughters.
DONE When I come back, I’m ready to end the day. I try my best to make it an earlier night than the rest of the week, because it’s my first night off. I’m in bed at 10:30 p.m., and in an ideal world, I’m asleep at 11 p.m. after catching up on some English soccer highlights.
Sunday Routine readers can follow Zouheir Louhaichy on Instagram @zouheirlouhaichy.