Sweet and smooth. Tangy, with a little bit of a kick — an original. And a secret nuance that makes everything it touches better.
Like the smoky mambo sauce he creates in the AKB kitchen at Archer Hotel Tysons, executive chef Mario Jones brings a flavorful punch to his kitchen and recipes. Here, he gives insight into his passion for cooking and his love of all things mambo.
FIRST SIMMERINGS: The idea of becoming a chef first came to me in 1992. I was working at another hotel as the director of purchasing. One day, I saw the executive chef in the beginning stages of working with salmon and beef tenderloin. He called me over and took me through his process. In 1994, I transitioned to sous chef, where I collaborated with the executive chef and director on innovative recipes and menu design.
“AHA” HAPPENING: When the executive chef moved on, I asked my general manager what the plan was. His reply? “You’re it.” I was already overseeing the kitchen and had purchasing experience, so it was a natural fit — I jumped at the chance.
PROUD MOMENT: I was put to the task of preparing my first four-course meal for a VIP event. The menu featured wild mushroom consommé, a poached pear and field greens salad, chateaubriand with sautéed tournée potatoes and crème brûlée.
PREPARING FAVORITES: Years ago, I didn’t have a favorite. As time has gone on, I find that I thoroughly enjoy cooking Latin dishes.
MAMBO IN D.C.: You’ll find mambo sauce across the DMV. You can put it on just about anything — chicken wings, fried rice, french fries — it’s a staple in the nation’s capital. Uncle Dell’s and Capital City are excellent bottled versions that can be easily ordered online.
SPECIAL RECIPE: I make mambo sauce in-house at AKB. It’s a silky red-orange color, sweet and sour with a hint of smoke. The consistency is like barbecue sauce.
SHARING MAMBO LOVE: At home, I like to glaze meatloaf and meatballs with mambo sauce. A pulled pork carnitas sandwich with pickled slaw on a brioche bun finished with mambo sauce — really, really good. At work, our house-smoked chicken wings tossed in our own sauce is a crowd favorite.
EXPERIMENTING: As an executive chef, experimenting is nonstop. We’re always looking for ways to create off-the-wall ideas that’ll rearrange your palate.
THE AKB VIBE: It’s an inviting, comfortable place to be. I love the ambiance, the crowd — folks are standing, laughing and talking, enjoying their food and cocktails and having good conversations with our wonderful bartenders and staff. They’re gathering with friends in one of our intimate niches or the patio around the fire pit. AKB’s a beautiful space with equally great cuisine and a cocktail-forward bar menu. What’s not to love?