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Yvan Lemoine is the executive chef of the Mexican restaurants Gitano Jungle Room NYC (part of the James New York — SoHo), Gitano Garden of Love, a seasonal outdoor spot nearby, and later this summer, Casa Nomad, a more casual option in Koreatown. “I am at my restaurants seven days a week, and Sundays are super busy with brunch,” said Mr. Lemoine, 37, who is also the founder of the restaurant company Akin Hospitality.
Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Mr. Lemoine attended the renowned Institut Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France, and honed his skills at restaurants in the city. He lives on the Upper East Side with his fiancée, Rebecca Sussman, 31, an actor and maître d’ at Avra Madison. Fittingly, as they are both restaurant people, they are to be married at one of his restaurants this weekend.
TAKE IT ALL IN Like every other day of the week, I’m up by 7. Rebecca doesn’t get out of bed till 9, so this my alone time. Before anything, I read all the emails from the restaurant that have come in the night before and tell me how many covers we had, any issues that arose and how much money we made. I don’t reply to anything but take it all in.
COFFEE, THEN RESPOND For the last year, I’ve been obsessed with French press coffee. I make a big pot and have one cup, black. I leave the rest for Rebecca. Once I’ve started waking up from the caffeine, I start responding to the emails.
SWEAT As a chef, it’s easy to eat a lot and be inactive. I used to be like that and feel unhealthy but finally got sick of it. In the last six months, I’ve committed to exercising and eating better and have lost 30 pounds. My trainer, George Ducos, has helped me a lot. I see him twice a week at the Equinox on 85th Street. He knows how tired I am on Sunday mornings because our Saturdays at the restaurants run late, but he is unrelenting. We do some cardio and heavy weights, and by the end, I’m ready to conquer the world.
BRUNCH SHIFT I grab a green smoothie with protein powder, jump on the Q train and head downtown for the brunches at the two Gitanos. The one at the James is more of a party scene with lots of tequila. Garden of Love is more bohemian and relaxed. We serve a Tulum-inspired brunch at both with dishes like huevos rancheros and Mexican shakshuka. The spaces are decorated with palm trees, and we’ve tried to emulate the feeling of being on a beach in Tulum as much as we can in New York. We get super slammed around 1, and it stays that way till 7. People are in no rush to go home.
ON THE LINE I’m on the line cooking the whole time at both kitchens and run back and forth between them all afternoon. As the head chef, I try to work all the different stations because that’s when I see what could be improved and what works well. I also guide the aspiring cooks on our staff. I went through the Careers Through Culinary Arts Program, and I hire as many interns from there as possible. These kids are always looking for some mentorship. I don’t eat a meal when I’m on the line but grab little bites of a lot of dishes. Before I lost weight, I would snack on unhealthy food all day like sausage and bacon. I still try everything but not nearly as much of it.
NEW PROJECT Around 4, I head uptown to Nomad to the new restaurant I’m opening this summer, Casa Nomad. I’m overseeing everything from the construction to the food and drinks menus. New projects are a lot of work, but they’re exciting. We’re doing healthy fast-casual during the day with salad and brown rice bowls. At night, the space will be a neighborhood bar with cocktails and small plates.
STILL COOKING Rebecca and I meet at Fairway on 86th Street between 7 and 8. We get essentials for the week, but the main point of the trip is to shop for dinner that night. I cook whatever she is in the mood for, but, more often than not, it’s salmon almandine with some sort of salad. On the way back home, we stop at our local wine shop and pick up a couple of bottles. One for that night and the rest for during the week.
DINNER DATE Rebecca opens the wine and sets the table with candles and nice dishes. Our schedules are so crazy during the week, and this is our standing date and our time to connect. Why not go all out? By 9:30, we’re eating. We’ve already had two glasses of wine each and drink some more at the table.
WATCHING, WITH WINE When we’re done cleaning up, we take our wine into bed for a Netflix session. We were into “Game of Thrones,” but Rebecca has me watching murder mysteries these days. We need to find a new show to get into.
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