Eric GrutkaIan's Tropical Grill
Chef Eric Grutka
Born and raised in Ithaca, New York, Grutka moved to Stuart in 1983, where he quickly learned to love the sights and sounds of the kitchen.
“My best friend growing up, his mother did a lot baking and cooking, and as a young child I was just around that all the time, I think that, somewhere, it made me appreciate cooking on a different level.”
Since that time, Grutka began working in the restaurant industry long before he owned his own establishment. Like most self-made chefs, he did it all: dishwashing, bussing, serving.
“I started working when I was 14, but I remember my first day in the kitchen. One day, one of our chefs didn’t show up, and they asked me to help out,” said Grutka. The rest is history.
Since that time Grutka has bounced back and forth from back of house to front, working in both kitchen and managerial positions. High-volume experience came as a corporate trainer for Ruby Tuesday, opening restaurants and assisting staff with the routine of day-to-day operations.
A string of high-end establishments in the Treasure Coast area followed, including Guytano’s in Stuart, 11 Maple Street in Jensen Beach, Islands Fish Grill in Melbourne, Pearl’s Bistro in Vero Beach, and The Mango Tree Restaurant in Cocoa Beach.
Today, Grutka is the chef and owner of Ian’s Tropical Grill, which has been open since 1999. As both owner and executive chef of the small eatery, Grutka experiments daily, rotating an ever-changing menu of 15 or so appetizers and about a dozen entrees covering his preference for modern American cuisine. Fresh meats, fish and local, organic produce are delivered daily, he said, making Ian’s a touch of sea to table fare.
“Before I bought Ian’s, a lot of my influence revolved around Florida flavors — tropical dishes,” said Grutka. “Since then, I’ve really evolved as a chef, and my flavor profiles have moved away from fruity to create a more balanced dish. I’m also staying away from too many ingredients, and trying to let the ingredients speak for themselves
Still, Grutka’s fans can’t let go of their favorite dish: Ian’s Day Boat Scallops. Although he’s tried several times to reinvent the popular panko-crusted, jerk-spiced scallops, the dish has remained on the menu for the past several years at the request of regulars and locals. Served with a garlic beurre blanc, raspberry coulis and homemade mango salsa, it’s become one of Ian’s signature dishes.
Grutka has won many awards locally and most recently won the 2012, 2013 & 2014 Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival, Grand Chef Throwdown, the first chef ever to 3 peat at this event.