Jason Simon, Owner
If Alba's genesis was a type of music it would be more jazz scat than classical symphony. It began in 2007 when, after a decade of travel, Jason Simon packed a bag and hopped a bus to Des Moines. His contacts were few, his budget small, and his main mode of transportation was a bicycle. Soon after his arrival, he stumbled upon what was once a 1950's auto garage and car dealership on the edge of the East Village. A month later, Simon was slinging a sledgehammer to create what is now Alba's open kitchen.
The entire design and rebuild took 8 months. During that time Simon was involved in every detail, from the curve of the concrete bar to the spice racks above the prep table to the installation of the restroom sinks. The doors on the ceiling, now one of the principal features of the restaurant, were really a product of necessity rather than pre-meditated design. Acoustic panels would have been over budget, so Simon improvised with large wooden doors from a nearby architectural salvage store.
Simon's menu changes frequently and although he describes the cuisine as contemporary American, he draws upon ingredients and flavors from all over the world. In the open kitchen there is not a lot of fuss, chef's whites, or specialty equipment, just knives and sauté pans. Patrons seated at the chef's table delight in having a front row seat to the action.
Simon was born and raised in Parkersburg, Iowa, and grew up working at his parents' local grocery store. He began cooking while earning a degree in history at the University of Iowa, continuing his education at the Western Culinary Institute's Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, Oregon. After completing culinary school he lived and cooked in New Orleans, Denver, and Cleveland. He finally returned to Iowa and opened Alba Restaurant in 2008.
Garrett Dotsch, General Manager
Food, wine and the service industry has always been in Garrett’s blood. Coming from two parents who have been in the business for years and his father being a fifth generation Escoffier apprentice and a long accomplished Chef, Garrett was introduced to all aspects of the industry from a young age. He always claims to be a guy that knows a little about a lot and has a true and rare passion for the hospitality business. Having been raised in the small mountain town of Vail, CO, he was brought up in restaurants all his life; being able to soak in everything around him to help create and hone his craft as a young adult. For most of his professional life, which is going on 15 years now, Garrett lived and worked in Denver, CO. Being very fortunate to have worked at some of the city’s best restaurants including the Squeaky Bean where former Chef Max Mackissock and eccentric owner Johnny Ballen helped Garrett really find his own style of service, always learning, gaining knowledge and making real connections with guests’ day in and day out.
A little over two years ago he moved to Des Moines. He gets the question all the time, “why did you move to Des Moines from a city like Denver?” The simple answer is love. Garrett knew he found a place he could flourish and help the Des Moines Dining scene move in the right direction. He has been part of the Alba team for over two years, recently being promoted to General Manager. When the opportunity was presented, Garrett jumped on it and hasn’t looked back since. He hopes that with his passion for the industry, many years of experience and keen eye for detail, he will be around to put Des Moines on the map as a serious food city in the years to come.
Sara Pardekooper, Assistant Manager
A Midwestern transplant from Indiana by way of Arizona, Sara Pardekooper, joined the Alba team in 2014.
From a young age, growing up outside of Chicago, in Northwest Indiana, Sara's amazing parents chose to expose their daughters to a variety of different cultures and cuisines through travel, mission work, and countless dining adventures. Even while still ordering off the kids menu, Sara and her sister would critique their parents plates on both taste and appearance, making sure to help ease any plate envy ensuring one would win best tasting, while the other would win best looking. It was these important times spent around a table and helping those less fortunate, where Sara first embraced the healing power and importance of food.
After graduating high school, Sara headed west and spread her wings while studying political science at Arizona State University. Surrounded by the new flavors and excitement of the Southwest, Sara dove full on into the Phoenix food scene. There she gained experience and knowledge working and watching restaurateurs Bob and Robin Trick at their House of Tricks, as well as honing her service skills working for various valley chefs, and assisting James Beard nominated chef Bernie Kantak with the opening of a new restaurant, The Gladly.
While living and loving Arizona, Sara met Cory, an Iowa boy with deep Des Moines roots. A desire for seasons and more family time spent around the table, inspired a migration back to the Midwest. She is loving being in Iowa, enjoying the seasons, rooting for the hometeam and the DSM food scene.
Mason Altheide, Executive Chef
Alba’s Executive Chef, Mason Altheide, was born and raised in the rural corners of Davis County, Iowa. He first found his calling to cuisine as a young boy in the kitchen with his mother, Lori, and continued to pursue that calling throughout adolescence.
Shortly after graduating high school in 2012, Mason enrolled in the Culinary Arts program at Indian Hills Community College where he would go on to earn his AAS. While pursuing his academic endeavors, he travelled to Valladolid, Spain to complete a study in International Cuisine and then selected for an internship in Farmington, Pennsylvania where he continued to hone his craft.
After graduating college in 2014, Mason found himself called to the city to begin his professional culinary career. He moved to Des Moines, Iowa and found his home at the thriving and notable Alba Des Moines where he was trained under Chef Jason Simon, owner of Alba restaurant, and Chef Joe Tripp, owner of Harbinger - cheek by jowl bearing Best Chef Midwest nominations by the James Beard Foundation for 2011, 2015, and 2016.
In January 2017, he was named Executive Chef of Alba, a role in which he proudly and enthusiastically continues to delight guests with his contemporary cuisine. Having been a staple of Alba’s success since 2014, Mason has been an invaluable asset - bringing his trained palate and growing creativity to their most notable dishes. Chef Mason continues to strive for excellence and to uphold the standards set by his predecessors, all the while finding his personal style and inspiring guests by using the bounty of ingredients surrounding us in the fruitful Midwest!
Marquis Blunt, Sous Chef
Being a Maryland native, Marquis has always had a profound love for food. Raised by the strong woman in his family, Marquis started in the kitchen at a very young age helping with family gatherings and holidays. Quickly, his passion for food grew as he moved state-to-state, learning from many different restaurants and growing his palate he realized the very best flavors come from the freshest ingredients possible.
Having found Chipotle Mexican grill in 2013, working with them and learning about classic styles of cooking as well as their stand for providing locally grown food that is organic and delicious, further inspired him to want to grow into the world of culinary arts.
In late 2016, Marquis moved here to Des Moines to start a family with his fiancee and son who are native to the area. Given the perfect opportunity from Owner Jason and Executive Chef Joe Tripp, Marquis secured his position on the team while working anxiously to prove himself he quickly made Head Sous Chef under new Executive Chef Mason Altheide. Working with Chef Mason, Marquis is committed to sharing with diners the joy that comes from eating the best ingredients, served at the peak of their season, prepared with expertise.