Philippe Massoud, the chef and owner of Ilili restaurant, with one location in New York City celebrating its 15th year and a newer one in Washington, D.C., that opened in 2021.
He comes from a family of restaurateurs in Lebanon, who sent him to the United States to stay with relatives. Then the political situation deteriorated at home and he found himself an unwitting immigrant, enrolled in high school in the suburban New York county of Westchester, where he played football, and found the local Middle Eastern food to be lacking.
Eventually he used his family’s recipes and techniques to open Ilili to critical acclaim.
Massoud has maintained his connections with Lebanon, visiting his mother once or twice a year (his father was executed during the unrest), and carrying at Ilili what he says is the largest selection of Lebanese wines in the United States.
Massoud recently discussed his restaurants and what makes his native country’s food distinct from other cuisines in the Middle East.
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