Chef Jason Simon, Alba Restaurant, Des Moines, Iowa
Located on the northern edge of Des Moines' historic East Village, Alba Restaurant has been serving up innovative plates inspired by the local food scene since opening its doors in 2009. After cooking stints across the United States, Parkersburg native Jason Simon returned to his home state to open the restaurant. After running the kitchen for the first couple of years, Jason has handed over much of the control to his team of top shelf talent as he continues to grow the Alba brand. Chef Jason Simon: I want into Alba, know the guys that are working there, the people that are serving the food. You know, we strive to bring people in that want to produce something awesome for somebody at dinner. I've got a kitchen full of chefs. I can't even work here anymore because they ain't got room for me in my kitchen anymore. Joe Tripp: I think a sense of a team is an important thing in a kitchen. It's all about the people you work with and I think we have a really good group of people that work here. Simon: You know, like my grandpa said, if you work hard good things are going to happen in this world. I encourage that and I think the guys encourage that with everybody they work with too and it transcends from the back of the house to the front of the house. Nic Gonwa: It's a lot of fun to have that collaboration because, you know, two heads, three heads are always better than one. So we have a lot of fun making sure that we're getting in fresh product, getting in seasonal things and seeing what we can do to play with those kind of as they come in. I work for an organic farmer on Saturdays at the downtown farmer's market here in town so I'm completely immersed in that and know really what is going on and am able to help these guys with what the farmer is growing or what is around the farmer's market at that time. Tripp: Those things that we have access to that kind of drive our menu forward and kind of give us the ideas of what we have available and we make it delicious. Simon: I think with the menu, the menu kind of reflects the personalities that are working the menu. It's taking something that somebody might have had before and spinning it in a different way and that's kind of how we like to play in the kitchen here and I think that's what kind of sets us apart and makes us a little more unique than the next place down the road. Captivated by the building's architecture, Jason dedicated eight months to its transformation into a contemporary cafe. The final product is a tribute to his tenacious work ethic and ingenuity. Simon: A lot of the features, you know, happen by necessity, like, you know, I think it's great to reuse old products, you know, to bring a place back to life. It was an old car dealership that was built in the 40s, transforming it into a restaurant, I'm like, there ain't no better use for it. There's distinctive decor throughout Alba but why all the doors? Simon: So we had the architects are drawing in soundscape panels, I priced them out and I was like, mimic the size, we painted them up, hung them up, it's become kind of like a little feature of the place so it worked out good. The restaurant design also features a chef's table, the perfect location for guests to get a glimpse of the kitchen crew in action. Gonwa: I think that's really one of the highlights of Alba. It's really where you can sit and interact with, you know, the chefs and the people preparing your food and ask questions. That's definitely a draw and it's something that people really enjoy because it's kind of unique. Simon: I don't think enough people pay attention to everything that goes component wise into a dish, the flavors that you can build upon inside of a dish especially with the different kinds of vegetables that are in season. Once people realize that and see the work going into it and they understand what they're getting when they sit down at dinner.
The East Village in downtown Des Moines is home to talented chef Jason Simon and Alba, his popular restaurant.
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