Editor’s note: Throughout fall, RED’s Made in Denver series will highlight Mile High business owners who graduated from MSU Denver programs.
You may have heard of jerk seasoning for chicken, but have you heard of jerk seasoning for fish, vegetables and eggs? Patrick Gruber, CEO of Beachfront Foods, says his jerk-themed Island Sauce can go on essentially anything.
Beachfront Foods began distributing unique island-themed sauces and rubs to spice up meats, poultry, veggies and much more with the company’s launch in 2020.
But Gruber’s inspiration for a culinary career began years ago, in his childhood home in south Denver, where his family prepared meals as a joint effort. Gruber said he learned a lot about how to cook from his mother and his grandfather.
Visits to see his grandpa “Big Russ” in the British Virgin Islands called for cooking on the beach, Gruber said. That’s where he met locals who taught him the art of island cuisine. Inspired by beachside-shack chefs, Gruber created Beachfront Foods to combine a tropical theme with ingredients made in Colorado. He created his first sauce, the Island Sauce, while working in the kitchen of a downtown Denver restaurant.
“I made the sauce for a mahi-mahi dish, and it was really good,”said Gruber, a 2014 graduate of Metropolitan State University of Denver. “I had some time off from the restaurant, so my wife and I decided to start bottling the Island Sauce and then came up with two other recipes.”
Gruber was pursuing a degree in Management and Graphic Design at MSU Denver when he learned his heart was with the culinary arts.
After this realization, he began studying at The Art Institute of Colorado and earned an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts. He then returned to MSU Denver and joined the School of Hospitality, earning his bachelor’s degree in Hospitality, Tourism and Events.
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Gruber took a variety of courses at MSU Denver, including ones that taught him business-management skills. He learned more than how to become a chef, he said. His professors taught him how to market his product for the right price to the right audience.
“It’s less about the recipe and more about the marketing,” Gruber said. “Opening my own business has been a crash course in everything from packaging to social-media marketing. On the culinary side of things, you eat with your eyes first. It’s important to make your food look presentable, and I was able to mix my love for art, cooking and business (to create) Beachfront Foods.”
A father of two and account manager for Ready Foods Inc., Gruber has a lot on his plate, but he hopes Beachfront Foods will continue to grow and contribute to the community.
In addition to honoring Gruber’s culinary experiences, Beachfront Foods supports sustainable practices. The most popular sauce, for example, the Honey Stung Sauce, features local honey and scotch bonnet peppers. Beachfront Foods also donates 5 cents from each purchase to Conservation Colorado or the Ocean Conservancy. A portion of Beachfront’s profits from fundraiser dinners and an annual golf tournament is donated as well.
“We love the outdoors,” Gruber said. “If we can be a small part in helping curb humanity’s impact and live in harmony, then that is a job well-done.”