FIU Student Wins Red Robin’s Dipping Sauce Contest

Tirza Diaz De Villegas is enjoying the sweet – and savory – taste of victory, as she was declared the winner of the Red Robin Savory Scholar Gourmet Dipping Sauce Contest at the Food Network New York Wine & Food Festival’s Blue Moon Burger Bash on Friday, October 18. Diaz De Villegas’ Tirza’s Tangy Cilantro & Garlic Sauce, which includes Heinz Mayonnaise, garlic, onion, lemon, cilantro, and Greek yogurt, was selected as the favorite Steak Fry dipping sauce by attendees at the event and Katie Lee, earning her a $5,000 scholarship and the chance to have her sauce served in Red Robin restaurants nationwide next year.

 “It has been such a rewarding experience participating in Red Robin’s Savory Scholar Contest, and I am so thrilled my dipping sauce has been selected as the winner,” says Tirza Diaz De Villegas. “What an amazing opportunity this has been to jumpstart my career in the hospitality industry.”

Red Robin’s Savory Scholar Gourmet Dipping Contest, held from August 26 through Sept. 9, included more than 100 sauce entries from students at Florida International University’s (FIU) Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. Each FIU student created a dipping sauce that could accompany Red Robin’s signature Bottomless Steak Fries. The recipes were evaluated by Red Robin and Heinz chefs, and food and lifestyle expert and author Katie Lee. Three finalists were named and each served his or her gourmet dipping sauce at the Blue Moon Burger Bash. Attendees at the event voted for their favorite dipping sauce and Lee announced Diaz De Villegas as the winner on stage.

“Tirza’s Tangy Cilantro & Garlic Sauce had a unique blend of mayonnaise, garlic, onion, lemon, cilantro, and Greek yogurt and pairs perfectly with Red Robin’s Steak Fries,” says Lee. “Congratulations to Tirza for making an award-winning sauce!”

“As the gourmet burger authority, we also know what it takes to create a great accompaniment to that burger – crispy steak fries and a craveable dipping sauce, which Tirza has given us with her Tirza’s Tangy Cilantro & Garlic Sauce,” says Denny Marie Post, Red Robin’s senior vice president and chief menu & marketing officer.  “We’re thrilled to provide Tirza with the opportunity to have her sauce on our menu next year.”

“We are pleased that Red Robin provided our students with a platform to prove their innovation and creativity, as they prepare to become the future leaders of the industry,” says Mike Hampton, dean of Chaplin School of Hospitality& Tourism Management at FIU. 

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