New York | Events


Lebanese-American Philippe Massoud began his hospitality career at Beirut's Coral Beach Hotel at eight years old. Escaping political unrest in Beirut, he moved to the U.S. in 1985 and was determined to "eat his way through the smorgasbord that is the United States." He holds degrees from Cornell University's School of Hotel Management and the Rochester Institute of Technology. In 2007, Philippe opened ilili. His mission is simple: Revive an ancient cuisine, re-invent it, and sell the concept to a public who, for the most part, has never had it as it should be.





How do you characterize your cuisine?

I call us culinary archeologists. The funny part is that we don't have to dig deep to find our treasures. There is an endless supply since we are working with a cuisine that is under-represented, mis-reproduced, and poorly executed. That being said, we explore the past of Levantine cuisine, improve its present, and dream about its future.

What region or ethnicity most influences your cooking?

Lebanon; Andalusia; Aleppo, Syria; Armenia; and Japan

What is your signature dish?

All of our dishes are signature dishes, but few do lamb like we do.

What kind of food were you exposed to as a child?

I ate mostly Lebanese, Syrian, and French cuisine, and later enjoyed eating curries because of the migrant workforce in Lebanon.

Have you ever lived or trained overseas? Where?

I have a love affair with Spain. I did my first training there at the age of 17, and continue to go there.

Is there an exotic spice or ingredient that you particularly enjoy using?

Sumac is still my favorite, followed by Aleppo pepper. We call them the Ilili Duo.

Does the design and style of your restaurant evoke a particular place? If so, where?

The design was inspired by a time when the Middle East was not as troubled as it is now. I wanted to go back to when there was coexistence across the board. The Phoenicians, who became the modern Lebanese, were the inspiration for the design.

When you cook for yourself, what do you make?

It depends. I usually cook when I am happy. Most of the time I like to experiment and try different things, but nothing beats a delicious arrabiata, or a properly roasted chicken.

Tell us about some trips you've taken for inspiration.

I have not had the chance to travel as much as I would like. However, I am planning a pilgrimage back to my roots.

What are your thoughts on global cuisine?

Like life, cuisine evolves. What makes globalization, a big plus is the access to ingredients, in addition to knowledge. You can find out what your colleagues are doing with the push of button, and you can converse about technique on demand. Our predecessors couldn't do that, so I suspect the learning curve is shorter for us now, and creativity in the kitchen continues to be multi-cultural as well as multi-technical.

What's the benefit of participating in New York Taste?

We are all about introducing the cuisines to new followers, and love to pair up with charities like City Harvest. It's the best two-birds-with-one-stone you can get!

Follow on Twitter: