Cook of the Week: Tupelo photographer perfects husband’s favorite Ecuadorian dish

By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Not long after Juan Carlos Barcia took Stephanie Rhea to be his bride, he took her to his family’s home off the coast of Ecuador.
Part of the reason was to introduce her to extended family she hadn’t met previously. And part of the reason was so she could learn to cook one of his favorite dishes: ceviche.
“It’s the only Ecuadorian food I make,” said Barcia, who is the face behind the camera at Stephanie Rhea Photography in Tupelo. “Juan Carlos does all the rest.”
Barcia said that when her husband’s family gets together, they usually prepare ceviche, which is labor-intensive, but well worth the work.
“I just got in the kitchen with them and Juan Carlos translated because they were speaking Spanish, of course,” said Barcia, who grew up in Mathiston. “I really didn’t write anything down. It’s like your grandmother’s recipe. As long as you remember the ingredients, the proportions are really up to you.”
And while ceviche may be the only Ecuadorian dish Barcia makes, it’s not the only thing she makes. The couple actually prefers to take most of their meals at home.
“I don’t care to eat out much,” she said. “For one thing, we save a ton of money. And for another, we’re rarely disappointed.”
If the couple has a little time, they might have pan-seared tilapia with rice and an Ecuadorian salad, or grilled bratwurst with grilled green peppers and rice.
The Barcias have rice with almost every meal.
“We have rice with eggs, rice with tuna. And we do a lot of Ecuadorian salads.”
That means fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions drizzled with fresh lime juice and salt. Or maybe a combination of tomatoes, onions and green bell peppers.
“But no salad greens and absolutely no dressing,” she said. “Maybe a dash of olive oil.”

Out on her own
The Barcias met in Ecuador when Stephanie was on a mission trip for The Orchard.
“I didn’t go on a mission trip looking for a husband, though,” she said, laughing. “That just kind of happened.”
Juan Carlos was into graphic design and Stephanie had always been interested in photography, so the two quickly clicked.
After a year’s stint as an intern for a high-end photography studio in Boston, Barcia felt confident enough to come home to Tupelo and open her own studio, with the help of her husband.
“At first, we both had part-time jobs to help pay the bills until we got enough clients,” she said. “2006 was a little bit slow, but we both had to be full-time in 2007. Now, we’re always booked.”
If they aren’t out shooting a wedding or an engagement party or a senior portrait, you might find them at home in Tupelo entertaining their small church group, which they call Village.
“We have 10 or 12 people who come over here every Wednesday night,” she said. “We rotate the food. We kicked off our first night with a big Italian feast. But usually we do soups or Crock-Pot meals. It just depends on whose turn it is to cook.”

Do you know a good cook? Send your nominations to Ginna Parsons, Cook of the Week, P.O. Box 909, Tupelo, MS 38802. Or you can fax them to (662) 842-2233 or e-mail them to

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