Celeb Chef Gets Gig at Taco Bell

Chef Lorena García (Courtesy Taco Bell)
Chef Lorena García (Courtesy Taco Bell)

When Taco Bell went looking for the right culinary expert to revamp their menu, their eyes and taste buds led them to renowned chef Lorena García, a Miami restaurateur, host of Utilísima's "Sazón con Lorena García" and contestant on the upcoming season of Bravo's "Top Chef". But, when the restaurant chain came calling, Chef García was surprised; "I don't do fast food!" was her first reaction. As the conversation continued she learned what the challenge entailed: coming up with fresh, healthy and tasty menu options in tune with Taco Bell's Tex-Mex influence and affordable pricing. The fast-food retailer was looking to create menu items with a clear Latin, homemade, chef-grade influence in order to stay relevant and become a forerunner among the leaders in the industry.

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But what would that mean for her? "I had to keep my word [her commitment to the highest food quality], and my reputation was at stake. But, then I saw that they respected me and who I was. I could bring my own ideas and recipes and make a positive impact on the customers."

Cantina Bell: the sound of a new menu

The focus of the new, baptized the Cantina Bell menu and an addition to Taco Bell's standard offerings, is in an abundance of fresh and gourmet ingredients. "I had the opportunity to bring about just the right contrast and balance of textures and flavors," says García. The menu consists of two primary offerings, a rice bowl and a burrito, containing eight possible ingredients: handmade guacamole, pico de gallo, grilled-corn salsa, herb-marinated grilled chicken, cilantro-infused rice, Latin black beans, romaine lettuce and the chef's own recipe for cilantro dressing. And, it seems the fast-food institution is in it for the long run: "They had to plant fields and fields of cilantro just [to provide] for the new menu!" says the Venezuelan chef.

Cantina Bell Burrito and Rice Bowl (Courtesy Taco Bell)
Cantina Bell Burrito and Rice Bowl (Courtesy Taco Bell)

Will Latinos Embrace These New Additions?
"Taco Bell has cheesy, creamy and crunchy down pat. Cantina Bell is a choice that is consistent with what is evolving [in terms of restaurant food offerings]. They have brought a Latina chef and spent two years testing [the menu]. It was almost shocking to bring this level of freshness. Latinos will be proud of how they'll be represented through this new menu," assures García.

Representatives for Taco Bell echo their goal of creating an authentic menu for their customers. "[We are] focused on providing all consumers with a variety of options," adds the fast-food chain. "The new Cantina Bell menu brings fresh Latin flavors from one of the leading Latina chefs all at an affordable price. That, in addition to Taco Bell's guarantee to replace a Cantina Bell menu item if a customer doesn't love it, is a great opportunity to give it a try."

Check out Cantina Bell's latest commercial:

Born and raised in Venezuela, Chef Lorena is the owner of "Lorena García Cocina" restaurant in Miami. She's currently the host of "Sazón con Lorena García" on Utilísima, has been featured as a guest on NBC's "The Biggest Loser" and will be a contestant in the upcoming new season of Bravo's "Top Chef". Her organization "Big Chef, Little Chef" provides a lifestyle modification plan that educates children and their families about the benefits of nutrition.

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