Chef N has garnered success with his ghost kitchen business, Illo’s Party Trays. Now, the culinary explorer ventures into the dining scene with Illo’s Home, which he only built in 15 days.
The Illo’s brand has enjoyed a positive reception from its clients since its inception in 2019. From their humble beginning in a small make-shift home kitchen to five commissaries in Paranaque, Cavite, and Greenhills, they have been catapulted into the limelight not just because of the rave from their celebrity clients, but also with their regard for food quality, value for money, and customer experience.
True to their “Dine at Home” and “Celebrate Life Everyday” slogans, Illo’s continues to encourage clients to celebrate important milestones in the new normal. With the economy opening up more and the shift in restrictions easing up mobility, Illo’s strengthens its position as a household food brand through continuous innovation and reinvention.
Taking the next leap into the unknown
When Chef N was passing along President’s Avenue in BF Homes, Paranaque and saw a top-notch spot being vacated by a well-known restaurant in the area, a sudden epiphany just occurred. Chef N thought to himself and said to his wife, Anne, “We have to secure that space!”
Just how Chef N and Anne took a leap of faith in their party trays business when they started, it was the same gut feel they both felt in that space. Chef N shares, “It was my favorite restaurant. That felt home.” Without hesitation, the couple contacted the building owner and made the arrangements.
“We thought of using the space as an extension of our BF Homes commissary since the demand for the party trays business is getting higher and we need a bigger space for our expanding operations,” said Chef N. However, things did not go quite well as planned. As it turned out, the space seemed destined for a new venture: the brand’s first dine-in restaurant.
“We wanted to stick to our business model which is party trays,” said Chef N, “but despite our honest attempts at convincing ourselves not to, the circumstances that surrounded us were showing that it was meant to happen. It may be God’s providence.”
Chef N recalled, “As we first stepped inside the then vacant space, a gush of anticipation overflowed. We felt happy. We felt light. We felt at home. And so, we named it, Illo’s Home.”
Home is where the heart is
Keeping up the excitement at his toes, Chef N immediately worked on the essentials, from the restaurant’s theme to the structural back-work of how it operates, as well as being on top of purchasing tables, chairs and other necessary equipment to ensure thematic cohesion; and above all, R&D of new recipes. He had to juggle and finish everything in 15 days. Chef N’s intention was to hold a surprise party for Anne on her 40th birthday, making that a pioneering event at Illo’s very first dine-in restaurant.
Central to their maneuver is adaptability. Being a business that is used to bulk orders from party trays, the main challenge of Chef N and his chefs was how to translate consistency into smaller portions. “My chefs and I continuously had to focus on reinventing our recipes to make sure that all dishes will be par with people’s expectations, especially for our existing clients in party trays.”
In a matter of 15 days, everything came into place. On February 6, 2022, Illo’s Home’s door opened and witnessed a personal family milestone that not just celebrated Anne’s another year of life, but was also highlighted by Chef N’s wedding proposal for their 25th anniversary in 2023.
“As they say, nothing is impossible with love. I wanted to make her happy on her special day, in the same way we treat our clients every time we serve them our food, “said Chef N. “Putting up everything from ground up was one of the most challenging things that I did, especially that my core strength is not making surprises, but cooking. But it was mostly a collaboration of the team and everyone who loves my wife,“ he shared.
Illo’s Home is an ode to Anne. Chef N shared, “Illo’s Home is her and how she is, how she makes me feel, and how she makes other people feel. Entering Illo’s Home is like a fleeting feeling being channeled to every corner of the place to provide you a unique and personal dining experience.”
Everyone has a place in this Home
What makes lllo’s Home stand out is its ability to create a perfect balance of simplicity and luxury. The restaurant’s façade strikes as a house, and the interiors showcase homey elements inspired with arts and culture, as beautiful paintings and art decos from local artists hang up from the walls. Its ambiance is minimalist, yet sophisticated. The tables, chairs and centerpieces blend well with the theme. The space is not crumpled, giving you a more liberating and comfortable stay. Above all, the food quality owes up to its reputation.
The restaurant has four main dining sections. The Foyer section on the ground floor has an austere classy vibe with its all-white theme, perfect for couples and intimate date nights. The Mezzanine section exudes an old-rich character, styled with long wood tables fit for family celebrations. Another section is the Lanai, an enclosed veranda which resembles an outdoor patio, for those who opt for a stark contrast. And the last section are the private rooms, The War Room and The White Room, which can be exclusively reserved for intimate family celebrations and corporate gatherings.
The aesthetic visuals on how interiors are designed, the exclusive scent of the place that the group has concocted, the mood-setting Parisian music it plays, and the food quality it offers—Illo’s Home’s is undoubtedly an all-sensory experience.
Chef N shared, “We normally go to a restaurant to satisfy our cravings, but ours goes beyond satiation, but satisfaction of experience. We want people to go to our restaurant and provide them an experience cut above the rest.” Anne continues, “Everything about Home is experience, an elevated experience. Being at Illo’s Home is an invitation to our real home and a glimpse of how we enjoy creating memories over the family table through food, in hopes to extend the same experience to our customers.”
The taste of Home is filled with all the good memories
Illo’s Home offers some of its personal home kitchen favorites, which are also being offered in their party trays menu like its best-selling Paella Valenciana, Pork Binagoongan, Beef Kare-Kare, and Baked Salmon among others. However, they also feature new recipes such as Asian Kesong Puti, Buffalo California Greens, and Tuna Nicoise for salads, as well as Pumpkin Soup and Drunk Mussel with Blue Cheese for soups.
Some Mexican favorites such as Fajitas, Cheese Flautas and Chimichanga are among its selection of appetizers. If guests are more for an Italian option, they also have an array of bruschetta for starters, such as Honey Brie Prosciutto, Steak and Pimiento, Smoked Salmon Cream, Avocado Ricotta, and Tuna Tataki. For mains, some new recipes include Chicken Galantine Loaf, Crackling Pork Belly, and premium meats like Ribeye, Porterhouse, and T-Bone steaks. An extensive selection of pasta offerings is also introduced like Steak Pasta, Agli Olio Seafood Pasta, Vongole Pasta, and Rigatoni Ragu Pasta.
Kids will also enjoy an exclusive menu for them including Sweet Spaghetti with Corndog, and Southern Chicken. Among its popular refreshments include Cucumber Mint, Classic Lemonade with Honey, and Mixed Berries. For desserts, cake tray favorites can now be served in glass or sampler sizes for a more personalized portion. For additional sweat treats, artisan ice creams are also available. Flavors include Anne’s Tiramisu, Rafi’s Nutty Vanilla, Sabie’s Wasabi, and Limoncello.
Capping off the entire experience is a guest passage to their Take-Out Nook, where delectable goodies ranging from bottled goods to pastries and desserts can be bought as souvenirs and gifts to their friends and loved ones.
Chef N has found his new playground through Illo’s Home. He shared, “The difference between party trays and restaurant is that with a restaurant, you can instantly see your customers’ reaction and feedback about the food and their experience. It gives me great pleasure knowing that they enjoyed their stay and seeing them leave Home with smiling faces. That is any chef’s consolation, and it inspires us to do better.”
The couple has never lost touch of their core and why they started the business in the first place. It has always been about helping as many people as possible. As they say, charity begins at home. “In five years, my goal is to provide homes for our people. I want to have 20 branches abroad, and 50 branches nationwide,” said Chef N.
Two additional Illo’s Home branches are set to open in the coming months in Greenhills, San Juan City, and Tagaytay.
To learn more about Illo’s Home, you may watch this feature on YouTube, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram. For inquiries and reservations, you may contact them at (+63)915-312-8941 or (+632)8-779-8696.