Simon Davies wants to help people throw an unforgettable party. The Californian native has made a name himself in Chicago and oversaw the city’s only three-Michelin-starred restaurant. Davies started at Alinea when was 19 as an intern. But after a decade working with Grant Achatz and his team, Davies has established his own business.
In 2021, Davies started Ilixr, imagining “Michelin-level dining” for private events and parties. Davies left the executive chef’s post at Alinea in January 2020, right before COVID suspended indoor dining for the first time. At Ilixr, he wants to throw “live, vibrant events.”
“The entire experience, it’s fully customizable,” Davies says. “They can choose any kind of experience they want: casual fine dining or something in between.”
Davies is serious. If a sports fan wants a killer game day spread, he’ll whip up a killer French onion dip and other accoutrements — caviar is a likely component. If a client wants an eight-course fine dining meal for 12, he can do that, too. The latter would range between $350 to $500 per person. Pricing for events starts at $1,200, Davies’ customer base is made up of “higher-budget clients.” Davies says the price is due to the cost of ingredients and the effort and time they spend on each event. They’ve also added virtual cooking demonstrations.
Ilixr is also starting to throw their own pop-ups. The first is a collaboration with a trio of Alinea Group alums. Former Roister chef Andrew Brochu, who left for Georgia to open his own restaurant, is partnering with Davies, star bartender Julia Momose (Kumiko) and former Alinea Group wine director Jill Zimorski for three-straight nights with live music. Bubble Bash takes place from Monday, May 2 to Wednesday, May 4. The $500 tickets are available on Tock.
One advantage of private events is more interaction with customers and that gives Davies a chance to know his clients and create personalized experiences. He can share what he learned in his travels, and why certain ingredients make sense in a dish. He realizes Chicago has several top-notch caterers, but he feels his experience at Alinea gives him an advantage. He also has connections with vendors saying he can source premium ingredients not always available to the home consumer. If a client wants Norwegian King crab, it’s not a problem.
Davies was already shifting away from fine dining before the pandemic. Frustrated service industry workers already had concerns about work-life balance and pay. Worrying about reckless customers who didn’t care if servers caught COVID only added to worker anxiety. With the new venture, Davies says he will give his staff a “more sustainable lifestyle” compared to restaurant life, one “where they have more free time and have the financial benefits, and the learning and experience of working in this industry.”
A catering company is a new path for Davies, but like many restaurant workers, he believes that there’s no reverting to pre-pandemic life and that he needed to find a new direction even in a post-vaccine world. Given the soaring popularity of fine dining during the pandemic, Ilixr could find an audience ready to party.