Happy phases punctuate the story of Zakhia Moujahed, owner of Zakhia’s iconic fish restaurant. From Zireh to Amchit, Beirut, and Jounieh where he recently opened his restaurant. Variety and quality of seafood, permanent presence on the premises, secret recipes of the chef, loyal customers … so many criteria of excellence that make Chez Zakhia a must for fish lovers. Prestige encountered Zakhia Moujahed in his new location.
Why did you inaugurate a restaurant in Jounieh?
As the lease and operational agreement at Amchit expired, we closed our restaurant there and opened in Jounieh, at the location of La Table Fine restaurant.
Why Jounieh specifically and not in downtown Beirut, for example?
We opened for a period in Beirut at the Hotel Riviera, but all kinds of problems forced us to move. Here, in Jounieh, in Old Souk, the place is as you can see, it reflects the style of Chez Zakhia. A location that offers the choice to either stay inside, in an airconditioned room, or outside, in front of the sea. Here, the place is larger, easier to access for the customers.
Your customers often come back. What is the key to this loyalty?
I have a long term relationship with my customers and we know each other. My look is characteristic, white hair and always wearing white, almost never leaving the restaurant. Even more, I devote myself entirely to the task, personally giving a hand. My clientele? I welcome and guide them in the choice of menu, traditional, homemade, but unique. In short, the key to our success lies in constant involvement and perseverance.
«Commitment and quality make our success»
What sets you apart from other restaurants in the genre?
I have been for 35 years, in the field of fish restaurants. I take care of the orders myself, carefully selecting the vegetables and fish of the day. Even the elements of the decor are characteristic: the wicker, the color of the wood, the sea are all inspired by the concept of Zireh in Jbeil. What sets us apart, and above all, is how we prepare the fish and chef’s secret that have been attracting customers since our beginnings in Zireh.
Your story in Zireh looks exciting. Tell us about it …
My story with this islet goes back to 1984. I grew up on the Byblos coast, where I organized, in the beginning, trips at sea towards this island, located at 300m of the coast. Soon, I understood the need to include a catering service to these visits, which were gaining popularity. By improvising a family restaurant on this cove accessible only by boat, we were, my brother, my cousin and I, pioneers in fish restoration.
The place could accommodate a hundred people seated. In a large pool, fish, lobsters, octopus, sea urchins and others were cooked on-site, in front of customers. My grandmother prepared the dishes from hommos to fries, and our clientele was delighted with this delicious menu served on site. Elias Skaff, Maroun Battal, Saad Dalloul, Rony Saïkali, Roy Haraoui, Sarkis Chalhoub, Charbel Ghanem … were some of the most loyal people to the place. In 1999, we moved to Nabeh el Teffeha, Halat, and in 2001, I moved my brand to Amchit, creating, alone, my eponymous restaurant Chez Zakhia.
What is your favorite dish?
The fish wrapped in coarse salt. It has the customers satisfaction, unanimously.
How do you plan to face the competition in Jounieh?
We have no difficulty in this regard. We are even proud of our brand. Chez Zakhia shed light on Zireh, Amchit, and now Jounieh. Where we have settled, we have contributed to the development of the region. The belonging to the place and the passion of the job that I instilled in my sons Peter and Tarek, my staff, this family team which remained faithful to the house, from the great chef to the one in charge of the vegetables and fruits … 80 % of my employees are from Amchit and they make our strength. Not to mention above all the presence, the continuous monitoring and control on our part. We strive to be innovative, the permanent upgrade, essential to the success of the establishment is one of our main goals. Our Media Representative, Inaam Chedid is planning to introduce some new offerings in Jounieh.
Inaam Chédid, how did you come to the media world?
I worked in the media field for twenty years. Currently, I am the Media Representative of Chez Zakhia and press attachée of Al Taharri.com, a website founded by the dynamic Ghada Eid. Over the course of my career, I have acquired a lot of experience in the media field. When I was in the first year of a bachelor’s degree in sociology at Usek, I traveled to Paris and worked as a journalist for the monthly magazine Snob. There, I interviewed a lot of celebrities, including Claudia Schiffer who did the cover of the publication. My collaboration with Snob lasted nineteen years in a row as Assistant Director.
What are your plans for launching Chez Zakhia?
Chez Zakhia is already known as a fish restaurant, to have to launch it. His clientele is loyal and his fame is well established. However, the novelties that I intend to introduce are unique to the place and the region. These are new, innovative and exclusive concepts that I am promoting. First, I start with the advertising campaign for the Alzheimer’s Association, chaired by Sawsan El Sayed. An unprecedented event in Lebanon. There will also be an illustrated brochure about the historical heritage of Chez Zakhia. Through this printed document, the Lebanese, Arab and foreign clientele knows the story of this man passionately in love with the sea and his job.
And what about the other projects?
The installation of a pergola in front of the big blue, intended to accommodate customers around a bar, as well as various events, birthdays, weddings … A landing stage will allow yachts to dock and passengers to restore. Our own yacht, called Chez Zakhia, will plan a program full of surprises for the clientele. Our customers will be welcomed at the restaurant around a menu and a cruise at sea. These two projects are unique of their kind in the region. And that’s not all.
Onboard of our yacht, an exclusive stand by Humvee C-Series by chez Zakhia, will offer all items of the brand-related to the sea, swimsuits, hats and other accessories. Another novelty and not the least: a once a week offered by the restaurant, where tables will be placed on the sand, for a barbecue lunch and fish, feet in the water …