New York, NY –
In observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, it was important to me to highlight a Hispanic chef that exuded great passion, hard work, and a flair of personality. I thought of no one else but Chef Lorena Garcia, she is a Venezuelan-born chef, restaurateur, TV host and author as well as one of the country’s leading Latina chefs. She currently owns two restaurants, Lorena Garcia Cocina in Miami and recently opened Lorena Garcia Tapas at the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport this past August.
Chef Garcia showcased her skills and culinary expertise throughout numerous shows that include “America’s Next Great Restaurant”, “The Biggest Loser”; she hosted several shows on Telemundo, and as of recently a competitor on “Top Chef Masters” to name a few. Many may also be familiar with her culinary creation, the Cantina bowl at fast-food restaurant, Taco Bell.
Chef Garcia set some time away to briefly interview with me. Enjoy our interview below.
Please share a little about your heritage and how it plays an essential role in your career.
I am from Caracasm, Venezuela but I moved to the United States over 20 years ago. The ingredients I grew up with like cilantro, avocados, and citrus I transmit through my dishes and they have gotten me to where I am in my career today.
Before you began your culinary career, I learned that you studied law and paralegal studies. At what point did you decide that you wanted to pursue culinary arts full-time?
Once I arrived in the United States, while working, I realized that I had the opportunity to go to Johnson & Wales University and obtain a bachelors degree in culinary arts.
Did you attend a culinary arts school, apprenticeship, or on-job training to acquire your culinary skills?
I trained at The Grand Bay Hotel, the Red Square Restaurant, as well as internationally in Europe and Asia.
Did you feel that being both Hispanic and a woman in a predominately male-driven industry that you were against the odds of becoming an industry staple?
I do not think it played a role against me. When you focus on knowing your craft and doing your best everyone has a fair chance.
What did you enjoy most about Top Chef Masters?
I enjoyed the opportunity to cook in amazing places such as the Grand Canyon, learning how to react under extreme circumstances when it comes to cooking, and the beginning of a beautiful friendship with Art Smith!
What were your thoughts when leaving Top Chef Masters? Is there anything you would do differently?
When you have to think on your feet and last-minute decisions have to be made, you will always second-guess or want to do something different. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t do anything differently.
Fans Want To Know
April Wardlaw (Hyattsville, MD) :
As most chefs are against fast-food, what inspired you to create the Cantina Bowl for Taco Bell? Have you received any criticisms since its been on the menu?
The inspiration came from the opportunity to create a menu choice that is focused on flavors and quality of the ingredients. We are reaching about 40% of the US population who eat at Taco Bell. When you’re reaching millions of people, you are bound to get some criticism and after all, we are talking about personal taste, but I am more focused on the menu that has proven to be successful and for what is coming up next.
Stephanie Cosme (Mays Landing, NJ):
What were some of the challenges that you faced along your path to success and how to did you overcome them?
It’s hard to pin point obstacles because there are many. The important thing is to persevere, focus on your goals and not get discouraged by those obstacles.
Jermaine Barker (Queens, NY):
As a traveling chef, what are two of your favorite quick meals that you make when you’re on the go?
A hand full of almonds, slices of apples and sharp cheese are one of my favorite snacks on the go.