Top Chef Lorena Garcia Talks Taco Bell, Big Chef, Little Chef, And Why Life Is Delicioso Now

Lorena Garcia is bringing the sazon…to Taco Bell. The celebrated celebrity chef is the driving force behind Taco Bell’s yummy new Cantina Bell menu, Lorena spoke exclusively to us about being a finalist on “Top Chef Masters” and how she’s changing the face (and taste!) of Taco Bell.

Lorena, one of my assistants brought me the new Taco Bell Cantina Bell menu, and for it being only 10 AM, it just rocked my breakfast.

[laughs] Awww, that’s wonderful, thank you!

So let’s talk about the new Taco Bell Cantina Bell menu and how you came to be a part of it.

The relationship started two years ago when Taco Bell asked me if I would be willing to add some recipes for them. At the same time, they wanted me to taste their core ingredients and see what I would do differently. Taco Bell and I come from two different worlds—I create high-end Latin style cuisine and I have my background in “Top Chef Masters.” I honestly didn’t know how we would work together. But then I saw that Taco Bell has an enormous reach; they have 60,000 restaurants in the United States alone, and 40 percent of the population eats Taco Bell.

Those are significant numbers.

Absolutely. So if I could be an influencer to make better food, to pay attention to the ingredients, and to change how it is prepared, we really stand a chance to change the perception of fast food. I think by doing that, it’s about staying relevant and listening to your customers and that’s what Taco Bell did.

What are some of your favorites from the new menu?

It’s hard to choose just one; I love them all! But I do love the Steak Quesadilla and the Cantina Bell Bowl.

How did you prepare to work with them?

Of course, I did my research to understand their operations. I went to their restaurants and their kitchens to understand how they did things. Portability is a big thing for Taco Bell; that’s why you have everything wrapped in a tortilla so it’s easier to carry around. But I am a very visual person, so seeing the ingredients and looking at what you’re eating, is very important to me. I love for people to be able to pay attention to the presentation.

I agree with you. The Cantina Bell menu looks like restaurant-quality meals.

Thank you! It’s intense work that is not easy to do but I am totally committed to doing that. To offer great ingredients with a focus on flavor and quality (while still being affordable!) is something revolutionary in the fast food industry.

What other projects are you working on?

I am working on my third restaurant as well as my second book. I am still doing new and exciting projects with my foundation, Big Chef, Little Chef, that works to fight against childhood obesity. I’m also working as a producer on four different television shows. And of course, I am always developing new recipes for my Cantina Bell menu at Taco Bell.

I would say that life is delicious right now for you.

[laughs] Yes, I would agree. Delicioso!

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