Let's get this straight. Mention Taco Bell to many US Latinos and you will get this:
- Crap food, unless you are drunk or high at 2 am and need to force feed yourself (although for us, we would search out the real deal, or just make it ourselves).
- You mean the brand that has just done so much to advance US Latinos by making a chihuahua its spokesperson (remember that) and continues to mass market "Tex-Mex" food for the clueless and uninitiated?
So you can imagine if some of us did a double take when chef Lorena García, born and raised in Venezuela, decided to hook up with Taco Bell and offer more healthier options, called Cantina Bell.
Two years ago, I was in my office and Taco Bell called me and, of course, with Taco Bell, I didn’t really understand what the situation was, I don’t do fast food chains, you know, it had nothing to do with my world. And when I go there, to the team, and what they wanted was recipes and they asked me to give recipes to them and to also try what they had and what would they do differently. And I realized in that moment that it was not only a great opportunity because they have the man power — I mean we train over 150,000 employees to create this menu and to make it exactly right. We’re talking 6,000 stores across the country.
So, what a great opportunity! If I can bring a great menu, great quality to the ingredients, and create great recipes for them, why not? If I can give my message to so many for an affordable price, because if somebody can do it, it’s Taco Bell. The power they have to buy the ingredients, imagine what we can do, and it’s exactly what happened. It took two years of going back and forth, of developing recipes for them to make it. For them, I really wanted to simplify the produce and make it accessible for them to do it and at least it started, at one point, this is how the Cantina Bell menu with me, it started.
We are creating a menu, we bring in 8 new ingredients and then as the time passes by… Believe me, we’re bringing great ingredients, great menu items to the Cantina Bell menu and this is actually, for the first time, a company paying attention to the way their customers are eating, the evolution of our customers. I’m a restaurateur myself, and I see that constantly. So, the fact that Taco Bell made the decision to bring me to the table, to bring my flavors, to bring my ideas of my cuisine to their environment, I was very happy because again, it’s a big opportunity for a big improvement to stay current in the business and I think that it’s a great combination.
In the end, Taco Bell is trying to change the game. Here is a "sneak peek" of what some people thought about it in Orange County:
That is all fine and dandy, but in the end, we would think that Taco Bell also paid García a lot of bolivares (or dólares or pesos), you get the drift. Maybe it will work, and maybe it will not work, who knows? The fact is that now Lorena García will forever be known as the Taco Bell chef. Is she trying to break into the stoner market? Just keep perpetuating the stereotypes to the masses.
The fact is that the fast good industry has tons of issues. We are all for healthier options, but what about the current options that are not so healthy? Taco Bell would have been much bolder if it just had García change the entire menu. Even add an arepa or two? (Ok, those aren't healthy LOL but damn they are so good.) But no, instead, just bring in the Latina cook to show how "authentic" Taco Bell has become and use a major food star to peddle it. We would love to know how much that cost. In the end, this is all about the Benjamins. What do you think? Was it a good move?