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Yuval Leshem, Co-owner and chef

My journey in kitchens began somewhere in 2009, when I luckily had an opportunity to attend for a cooking day in HaSalon restaurant, and I suddenly found myself addicted to it. At the time I was a student for business management, but my real passion was cooking. I remember myself reading a lot, practicing different dishes every day, trying to learn as much as I can, fascinated by every piece of knowledge I could get. So when I got this opportunity to get a glimpse into the professional’s world it was a dream come true.

I arrived with huge excitement and curiosity, and I discovered an amazing place, with the most inspiring  people who live this world of creation, cooking in open kitchen, their own “stage”, with beautiful audience  around them… Explosion of energy and adrenaline. It was mind blowing for me, I couldn’t even imagine something like that in my Wildest dreams.I fell in love immediately. That day somehow changed my path in life because it became clear to me that this is something that I really love and want to do in my life.

Long story short, I stayed working in The food group of Eyal Shani for 12 years, in different roles – I was the executive chef of HaSalon for few years, and at the same time culinary director of the company – I was working with all the chefs on the menus, choosing the right ingredients, opening new places with Eyal, everything which had to do with culinary direction in the company. In 2019 I moved to New York to establish HaSalon NYC, and was the chef there for a year.

During Covid-19, the entire restaurant industry in the world had stopped at once. I decided to go back to Israel for a while, and suddenly discovered a new form of cooking, out side the restaurants, inside the client’s homes. I loved it from the first second , it felt Like the most intimate and exposed form of cooking in front of people.

I decided that this is my new path, and that I want to start something new, from the beginning. That was the point that my friend Adam and me decided to do it together, to create ILU – our own company. The idea was very simple – basically we wanted to gather around us extremely talented chefs, sommeliers and hospitality professionals, and to create restaurants in people’s homes, in the best way we can. Later on, we began doing culinary consulting projects, and found that we really love it, the chance to be completely creative and open minded, and build custom made restaurants for interesting projects in Israel and abroad.

These last 2 years since we established ILU are very exciting and challenging for me. Everything is new, and possible, there aren’t clear limits, and it gives me a great sense of excitement, from getting to know amazing people with a lot of knowledge, and from learning things that I haven’t done before. And that is exactly what I love in cooking – imagining and experimenting, knowing it endless, it excites me to find something new that touches me, and than to see the way other people react to it. This tiny moment of spark that you feel from a small discovery, that lands on the table,  and suddenly there’s a second of silence around the table. This is what I’m looking for.

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