On a rainy afternoon a few weeks ago, Florida International University hospitality student Tirza Diaz De Villegas scrambled to make the deadline for Red Robin’s Savory Scholar Gourmet Dipping Sauce Contest.
Despite not being able to drive due to a bad hip, the 34-year-old mother of three from Kendall made it to a computer just in time to submit her recipe.
With her hip healed, Diaz De Villegas served her yummy mixture with Red Robin’s bottomless steak fries to a throng of hungry people at Food Network’s New York Wine and Food Festival last week. The sauce — a mix of mayo, cilantro, lime, garlic and Greek yogurt — won at the festival’s burger bash in front of big names like Rachael Ray and author Katie Lee, who presented her with a $5,000 scholarship. More than 100 recipes were initially submitted from FIU hospitality students before Diaz De Villegas was chosen and flown out to New York with two other finalists, as festival goers selected the winner.
Diaz De Villegas said the recipe, a family tradition usually served with fried yucca, was modified slightly. “I tweaked it with the yogurt; I wanted to make it a little healthier. I actually gave it more of a creamy texture,” she said.
The winning sauce will accompany the chain’s bottomless steak fries next year across RR’s more than 480 restaurants, including locations at The Falls in Kendall and Pembroke Pines. She plans to “visit as many locations as possible” to try out her creation.