The New Wave at Blue Wave Bar and Grill
It’s been an exciting time here at Best Western Plus Island Palms Hotel & Marina. Our excellent on-site eatery Blue Wave Bar and Grill is under the guidance of a new chef, Andrew Mroz. He brings with him a wealth of talent, experience, and enthusiasm, and he’s already begun to undertake a big refresh of the menu and cocktail program. And while we could extol his virtues on his behalf, we’d much rather let him speak for himself. Read on to hear directly from Blue Wave Bar and Grill’s new captain of cuisine.
Hi! I’m Chef Andrew Mroz. I’m originally from Lapeer, Michigan, but I’m excited to be here in San Diego. I grew up on a cattle farm back home, and working with the animals gave me a depth of experience in the preparation of meat — including beef and wild game like venison. I first discovered the joy of cooking as a Boy Scout. Over my experience with scouting, I worked my way all the way up to the rank of Eagle. And since I was always the one bringing a full set of seasonings and my own cooking supplies in my knapsack, I was also always picked to cook the meals for my troop. So I knew what I wanted to do with my life fairly early on.
While attending high school in Michigan, I opened my own greenhouse business where I grew organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs. I used to love going to local farmers markets, selling my produce, and handing out recipes to people in order to inspire the joy of cooking. After graduation, I attended Michigan State University, where I studied business management and horticulture. I sold my business and moved out to San Diego after college. Soon, I was paying my industry dues as a dishwasher at the Doubletree on Hotel Circle. I always had my eye on advancing up the ranks, though. Sticking with it really allowed me to learn and grow. Over the course of four years, I was promoted from dishwasher to prep cook to line cook, before eventually becoming the kitchen manager.
By leveraging my knowledge of organic fruits and vegetables (as well as the experience and technique I gained working with proteins), I was ultimately offered a sous chef position at The Lot in La Jolla. I accepted it in order to expand my horizons in fine dining. My very first day there was Valentine’s Day. I’ll never forget how it felt to lead the line from the grill that night, cooking over 200 filets mignon for a capacity crowd. The rush from that experience really drove home that this was exactly what I wanted to do, and it inspired me to aim even higher. By the time I moved on from The Lot, I was handling things as their executive sous chef.
Raising the Game
My next move led me to becoming the executive chef at Bay Hill Tavern in Claremont. There, after beginning with little more than a construction site, my team and I put in the sweat equity to build out a fully operational kitchen. My menu there focused on farm-to-table, utilizing all local, seasonal produce. Not that we had much choice — we didn’t have a freezer! That was far from a problem, though. It just meant that everything was prepared ultra-fresh and made to order. But then, the pandemic arrived. And the hospitality industry hit a massive bump in the road that affected us all from the concierge desk to the kitchen. Thankfully, not long after that, I found my best opportunity so far — joining the family at Best Western Plus Island Palms.
What’s Happening at Blue Wave Bar and Grill
Now that I’m here, I’ve got the enviable opportunity to make some exciting things happen with the Blue Wave Bar and Grill! Starting with the “bar” part, we’re revamping our cocktail program and releasing a brand new beverage menu as of this week. Since I’ve always preferred to work with local ingredients, the new drinks menu will utilize products from a lot of San Diego-based companies. This city has a killer craft beer scene, so we’ll be showcasing some standout local brews on tap. For December 2021, we’re also proud to offer our “Parade of Flights.” This special sampler was created to celebrate the annual San Diego Bay Parade of Lights, and features curated tastings of local wines, beer, and appetizers. We hope our guests enjoy their favorites on our outdoor patio while also drinking in amazing views of the marina. Our fantastic location really showcases San Diego beautifully.
Making the Menu
November also saw a refresh of our new food menu, which has already proven to be a big hit with guests. It showcases fall-themed dishes that are a perfect match for cooler weather. So far, our most popular item has been our from-scratch clam chowder. We start fresh every day, and we make every batch using only wild-caught, locally-sourced seafood from area fishermen. Another guest-favorite entrée has been our pan-seared salmon, served on top of asparagus-tossed farro and topped with a warm, braised-fennel-frond salad and tangerine beurre blanc. If you’d like a look at all the great new items we’ve got cooking, check out our new breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus.
What Inspires Me
If it isn’t clear by now, I genuinely love food. But I also love working with the team here. They inspire me, and I hope that I return the favor. In light of that, there are two things I always tell anyone I work with. The first is, “Never stop learning — every person you meet represents the potential for new knowledge or a better way to do things.” The second is, “Always cook and serve food like it’s your own grandmother you’re trying to impress.” And if you knew what an amazing cook my grandma was, you’d understand what a standard that is! Ultimately, I really look forward to making something fresh for you when you drop by Blue Wave Bar and Grill at Best Western Plus Island Palms. See you soon!