Windsor Heights' critically acclaimed French restaurant to close, relocate to downtown Des Moines
We asked two Des Moines chefs, Sean Gleason of Gastro Grub & Pub in Waukee and David Baruthio of Baru 66 and Saison Kitchen + Pub in Windsor Heights, to taste the the top three new foods at the 2018 Iowa State Fair — and to predict the winner.
Master chef David Baruthio puts the finishing touches on the first of three courses for a culinary event at Nomad called Three Dish Night — a fundraiser for mental health awareness showcasing the linear drawings of Brent Holland.
With a sharp eye, Baruthio glances up at the dining room from the open kitchen as the sounds of tinkling glass and smooth jazz by John Krantz and Steve Charlson drift through the elegant, softly lit space overlooking the Pappajohn Sculpture Park.
Usually, Baruthio oversees his kitchen and dining room at Baru 66, but this special "prelude-to-Arts-Festival" dinner has his creative attention focused on Nomad at the moment. But Nomad is soon to be his temporary home.
After more than nine years, the critically acclaimed bastion of French cuisine in Windsor Heights is closing its doors.
Saturday will be the last night of service at Baru 66, located at 6587 University Ave. in Windsor Heights.
Gone will be the 4- and 6-course tasting menus and the 3-course menu du chef including such favorites as escargot, duck a l'orange, pommes frites, profiteroles and crêpes Suzette.
But Baruthio promises this is only temporary.
"We've been debating what to do next," Baruthio said. "Our space has been great, and we've had the honor and privilege of cooking for the elite of Des Moines."
Baruthio attributes the success of Baru 66 to his loyal followers for almost a decade.
"I was asking myself what I can do to bring more to Des Moines," Baruthio said. "I need to be better. I need to be more challenged. And the restaurant is the playground of the chef."
It is Baruthio's belief that the kitchen is the engine of a restaurant while the dining room is its soul.
Baruthio and Hill both agree that Baru 66 would benefit from a new location downtown. Hill said they are not renewing their current lease.
"Downtown Des Moines is a much-hyped area," Baruthio said. "We've decided that Windsor Heights is not enough for me anymore and we've decided to relocate ourselves to downtown Des Moines." A location has not yet been chosen but is in the works.
The opening of Baru 66 in its new space will mark the 10-year anniversary for the popular restaurant. In the meantime, some of the staff of Baru 66 are moving to Nomad and some are going to La Bastidie, Baruthio's charming boutique hotel in Casaubon in the south of France which includes five suites, a cottage, pool, spa and beauty salon — and a 30-seat fine dining restaurant.
As the brand ambassador for Palux — a kitchen equipment company based in Germany — Baruthio already has a new Palux-designed showpiece kitchen in storage in Waukee, ready to be installed at its new home.
Baruthio is also the brand ambassador for Champagne Lecomte Père & Fils in France near Épernay.
Along with looking for a new home for the restaurant, Baruthio and Hill plan to take some well-deserved time off. "Me and my wife have never had a vacation in nine years," Baruthio said. "But we will be back with something really nice by fall."
Throughout the spring, Baruthio has been traveling to events hosted by the Association of Maîtres Cuisiniers de France, an organization of French master chefs that Baruthio was inducted into in 2018.
In fact, Baruthio nominated Des Moines as the location for the Maîtres Cuisiniers de France's annual 4-day congress in June 2021.
The organization recently accepted, and the event will bring in more than 280 world-renowned Michelin-starred chefs like Thomas Keller to the city with many global sponsorship opportunities. There will also be chances for local chefs to participate in its activities and events showcasing Iowa food culture and heritage.
The event has been held in San Francisco, New York, Mexico and France in previous years.
"I think Iowa deserves it, and it's a way for me to say thank you for being so supportive of the food business and what we're trying to do here," Baruthio said.
Previously, Baruthio was a James Beard Foundation Award semi-finalist in 2013 for Best Chef Midwest and in 2011 for Best New Restaurant.
In 2017, he appeared on the Food Network's "Beat Bobby Flay" and cooked a multi-course dinner at the James Beard House in New York City.
Baruthio has a long culinary history in Des Moines and around the world, including in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Belgium, Nepal, Beverly Hills and Mongolia, earning a Bib Gourmand from the Michelin Guide in Belgium.
He has owned Prime Land & Sea, Blue Tomato Kitchen, Baru at the Art Center and Saison Kitchen + Pub.