For Eva Barrios, CEC, Executive Chef of Royal Oaks CC, this dish represents her ability to pivot on a dime, combine exciting flavors and evolve with unique and exciting ingredients.
When Eva Barrios, CEC, Executive Chef of Royal Oaks Country Club (Houston, Texas) competed in the 2019 Iron Chef Mystery Basket at the Chef to Chef Conference in New Orleans, she and her co-competitor, Nelson Millán (formerly the Executive Chef of San Antonio Country Club) sketched out a base menu that included a fried rice.
But when Barrios saw the ingredients made available for the competition, she realized there was no soy sauce.
“I immediately began searching for a replacement,” she recalls. “I saw white-wine vinegar, so I grabbed it, chopped some herbs and added the mushroom and tomatoes. When I tasted the rice, it was amazing—better than what I had planned with the soy sauce.”
At the time, Barrios was Executive Sous Chef of Austin (Texas) Country Club. And when she returned to her club after the conference, she reintroduced the rice to the menu, but added avocado. The membership fell in love—much like Barrios did the first time she tried African Adobo.
“African Adobo is better than blackening,” she says. “When I first tried it, I used it on everything—I was obsessed.”
Soon after joining Royal Oaks CC at the start of 2020, Barrios was ready to share her love of African Adobo with her new club’s membership. She introduced it with salmon, and laid it over her avocado fried rice. She added a touch of sriracha aioli for a hint of heat and some added fat. She composed the plate to showcase each component in equal measure.
The final result has remained on the club’s menu for three turns—and it may not ever come off now, Barrios says, because the members love it that much.
“When I’m dreaming up a new dish, I close my eyes and imagine the flavors and how they will interact,” she says. “I rely on my sense of smell and my ability to concentrate and combine flavors in my head. That’s how this dish came together—and it’s one of my most successful plates so far.”