How Philippe Massoud paved the way for Lebanese fine dining in the U.S.

NYC’s ilili opened 15 years ago, inspired by a family’s culinary and hospitality legacy and the drive for an elevated restaurant experience.

Philippe Massoud grew up Lebanon, spending a lot of time in his family’s hotel learning hospitality and cooking from the best. He was forced to leave his country during the civil war, arriving in the U.S. with a strong desire to pursue his culinary passion.

Philippe Massoud

Philippe Massoud

That desire finally became a reality 15 years ago, when, after many fits and starts, he opened ilili in New York City, introducing Americans to Lebanese fine dining. The restaurant, whose name means “tell me” in colloquial Arabic Lebanese, features a striking modern design and a progressive menu that showcases many of Massoud’s family recipes. Two years ago, a second ilili opened in Washington, D.C.

Listen as Massoud shares his arduous journey from refugee to restaurateur, how discovering the “recipe card” in a food and beverage class at Cornell University changed his life, and how he has plans in the works to expand ilili to more locations.

Subscribe to Menu Feed on Apple Podcasts.

Subscribe on Spotify.

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


Grand Geneva Resort & Spa's 'Ouisconsin' croissants reflect the state's French legacy

Behind the Menu: Hyper-local Wisconsin ingredients and a three-day baking process turn out pastries that are in high demand by hotel guests.


Reaction to Wendy's dynamic pricing test reveals its risks

The Bottom Line: The burger chain mentioned last week that it would test the pricing strategy sometime next year. Consumers frustrated with prices reacted swiftly.


Why the Burgerim settlement exposes flaws in franchise oversight

The Bottom Line: The federal government allowed the chain’s founder to avoid major penalties by simply paying $1,000. What’s the point of regulation in the first place?


More from our partners