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The story of ilili is embedded in a rich heritage of Lebanese cuisine and hospitality, dating back over 100 years and covering three generations of the Massoud family. A story that begins inside the walls of Beirut’s most iconic hotel and finds its way to the bustling streets of NYC.
Executive Chef & Owner Philippe Massoud and brother/co-owner Alex grew up in Beirut’s Coral Beach Hotel, started by grandfather, Alexander and passed down to father, George. This was Lebanon’s Golden Age, and the Coral Beach was Beirut’s social and cultural hub. It was here that Philippe first developed an interest in food, studying under the hotel’s head chef, and learning the nuances of regional flavors and elevated hospitality.
Philippe and Alex were forced to flee the Lebanese civil war as young teens, leaving their country, family and friends behind to settle in the U.S.. Yet despite the distance, Philippe’s love for the food culture of his homeland grew only stronger, a yearning exacerbated by the poor quality of the Lebanese food on offer.
Soon a clear vision emerged – one where Lebanese food gained the recognition it deserved, and sat alongside the world’s great cuisines as a true equal.
Lebanese cuisine is a sensory experience; an invitation for people to join your table to celebrate. It is about bringing people together around a shared theme of love, celebration, generosity, and care. This is the essence of ilili.