Metro Top Chefs Share Their Recipes For Success - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Metro Top Chefs Share Their Recipes For Success

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By: Sabrina Ahmed

Did you know there are more than 600 restaurants in the metro area?  Almost 300 popped up just in the last five years. 

It's a competitive business that's not always successful, so what does it take to make it?  We talk to some of the most talented and successful chefs in town to hear their recipe for success.

The owners of the two restaurants we're here to tell you about have traveled the world to find the right fit.  They could work anywhere! But each of these chefs has chosen to make Iowa home.

When you step into the kitchen at Baru 66, it's like a very loud ballet.  Everyone has their part, and they dance around the kitchen in perfect harmony.  The man directing it all? David Baruthia.  Known to everyone at Baru as "chef".

He's classically trained, from France, and is highly regarded around the world.  Food is an art. The kitchen is his canvas.

"I feel free. There's not limit in what I can do," Baruthia said.

Jason Simon at Alba has a similar love for food, but his passion comes from a place a little bit different.

"I have a concept I take from my grandma and my mom, it's just bare cupboard cooking, they could pick anything and make it taste great.  And I always wanted to pull that thing off with myself and my business," Simon said.

Family brought both of these men back to Des Moines.  Baruthia met his wife, Sara Hill, a local woman, when he first traveled to Iowa.

"Iowa girls are tough, it took me several airplane trips and thousands of dollars on traveling to be able just to get a date," Baruthia said.

It took years for them to land in the same city, and Sara wanted to settle here.

Simon had a few options, but Iowa has his roots.

"I had a friend once tell me I'm just a white guy from Iowa," Simon said.

And six years ago, it just made sense.

"It was either here, Des Moines, or Omaha, maybe Minneapolis," Simon said.  "We kinda settled on Des Moines because my family and friends are all in the area."

Both restaurant owners strive for the best.  A gourmet french restaurant at Baru.  A twist on American cuisine at Alba.  Using the best ingredients.  But each got to their success in a different way.

Simon's head chef at Alba, Joe Tripp, is proud of his Iowa roots, and uses the best of what local farms have to offer.

"If you go to restaurants in California, Colorado, New York, a lot of them are using the rabbit that we raise here, the pork that we raise here, and I think that we're finally starting to catch on that, since that stuffs from here, we should really celebrate that," Tripp said.

But Alba doesn't want to be stuffy, or fine dining.

"Sometimes we get antiquated with the fact that, sometimes the food's so good, that it has to be high end, but really I don't want that stigma to follow it," Simon said.

Baruthia ships food from around the world, pushing the envelope, but also realizing that in order to crack into the market, his old ways had to be a thing of the past.

"Your goal is to make yourself on the top and work for food critics, for food guides, and try to get your name in the paper all of the time and when I came to Des Moines, I changed that," Baruthia said.  "I get up in the morning to cook for my people."

Each restaurant has cultivated a following, people who rave over the food and say it can't be beat.

"It's just the best restaurant Des Moines has ever had, and we just love it," one Baru 66 customer said.

"I love the food, I love the atmosphere, I love the ambiance, it's my favorite place in town," a customer at Alba said.

The top chefs in Des Moines understand their market, but also understand the food they serve.  It's more than a living.  It's a lifestyle.

"I'm just someone who likes food and wants to please people and we're not scared about working hard for it," Baruthia said.

"You gotta have it, so I don't know why you'd eat anything that you don't like," Simon said.

Both Baruthia and Simon say the food culture in Des Moines is changing, and they're excited to be a part of it.

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