A caliber chef with a penchant for fine dining Italian, Missy Robbins opened Williamsburg’s Lilia in 2016 and has attracted a great deal of accolades ever since. Though she cultivated her love of Italian food in her five years as executive chef at Spiaggia, she attributes the spawning of her culinary inclinations to less romantic circumstances. It was during her time as an art history student at Georgetown University that she found herself totally besotted with the energy of the kitchen. She has now gone beyond mere cheffing and continues to challenge herself daily, acting as restaurateur and entrepreneur as well. Twenty-four years on in the industry, she is proud to have reached this pinnacle in her career at a time of true professional ripeness and maturity.
How/why did you become involved in your line of work?
I started cooking my last semester in college. I was an art history major at Georgetown but I always had a fascination with restaurants and cooking. I thoughtI would have a different career path, but I was hooked on the kitchen pretty quickly. There is special energy in kitchens, you are constantly moving, working with your hands and once at a certain level you get to use your creativity daily.
Tell us a little bit about your present work, the Cliffs Notes version of your day to day and what is at stake:
I opened Lilia a year ago in Williamsburg. I had taken some time off after my last job to figure out my next step and this is where I landed. While every step in my career has been important this by far has been the most exciting for me. I have always wanted to not only be a chef but a business owner, restaurateur and entrepreneur. I get to do all of these things at the same time now.
What do you find most fulling about your work?
Making our guests happy, mentoring my staff, and continuing to challenge myself creatively.
What is your proudest achievement with this work and what is your greatest challenge?
Definitely opening this restaurant. I have been in the industry for 24 years and was always working towards this moment. It took me much longer than i imagined it would to have my own place but I am happy in many ways that I waited. I think Lilia is better than it would have been many years ago. The biggest challenge of this industry is maintaining a good work/life balance. I work very hard at it.
What do you hope changes or improves (or continues!) in your field in the future?
I think our industry is as exciting as its ever been. There are so many avenues to take and the public is as excited about food, drink, and restaurants as ever.
Who would you nominate for this list?
SPENCER LUDWIG– musician and singer. Lives in the neighborhood, just released an album. Hugely talented, unique and a great guy.
Learn more about this year’s 100 Influencers in Brooklyn Culture.