Philippe Massoud of ilili Fights Hunger with Hospitality
Philippe Massoud’s education in philanthropy started early. Born in Beirut, Lebanon, to a family of hoteliers, Philippe recalls how his father set aside space in his hotel for the International Red Cross during Lebanon’s long civil war; how his grandfather gave his home and a good part of his estate for the establishment of a school; how his mother could not turn down a plea for assistance from any of Beirut’s poor.
“Growing up, nobody told me about charity, that it was something I should do,” says Philippe, sitting for a moment but never really relaxing during a late lunch rush at ilili, his restaurant and salute to Beirut's best cosmopolitan culture. "It was just what we did."
In his own career as a restaurateur, Philippe has carried on the tradition. Because his work revolved around food, it seemed natural that he'd do something to help those who don't have enough to eat. Working with Action Against Hunger was a perfect fit.
"I saw they were rated highly, and when I told them about Dine Out for Haiti, they said 'let's do it.'"
Dine Out for Haiti was Philippe's own brainchild, conceived after the earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince in January 2010. Participating restaurants could add a special item to their menus, proceeds from the sale of which would be donated to relief efforts.
The campaign ended up raising over $90,000 and this success only drove Philippe to work harder. He will be cooking gratis for over three hundred on Monday at Action Against Hunger's Benefit Gala, which raises over $1 million annually. And he is hoping to drum up interest in a Dine Out for Africa event, aimed at addressing the persistent, deadly drought and food crisis in the Horn of Africa. "This is not so dramatic as Haiti, but it is such a terrible tragedy and it is still going on," he says.
Then he has to be somewhere else, fixing something, seeing to something, making sure ilili runs as it should. It's hard to comprehend how he finds the time or the energy to work in such a hands-on way for the causes he supports, but it's easy to see why he does.