Venezuelan-born restaurateur, TV personality and published author Lorena Garcia is currently one of the country’s leading chefs, well known for numerous TV appearances, a successful chain of restaurants, a cookbook and as the highly recognizable face of Taco Bell’s “Cantina Bell” menu. On the heels of the success of her first cookbook, Lorena Garcia’s New Latin Classics, Garcia has taken her love of cooking to the next level by creating the Lorena Bella Kitchen Collection for HSN, which debuted on November 14, 2013.
Garcia first embraced a love of food as a child, most bountifully at family gatherings while growing up in Caracas, Venezuela. Garcia originally planned to be a lawyer, finishing her associate degree and paralegal studies while learning English, but she soon realized her heart was not in it. Garcia left the legal world behind her and enrolled at Johnson & Wales University, graduating with a degree in culinary arts. With a world of choices ahead, she set out on a tour of countries known for great cuisine. In Paris she took her first job as an apprentice at the Ritz-Carlton, subsequently working her way through Italy, Japan, Korea, Thailand and China. Returning to the U.S., she spent three years under acclaimed chef Pascal Oudin at the Grand Bay Hotel. She continued to hone her chops, and helped prepare a few, doing time at Jeffery Chodorow’s China Grill and Red Square.
In July 2002 Garcia took the leap and opened her own restaurant, Food Café, and then Elements Tierra, two successful restaurants in Miami’s Design District that featured an eclectic mix of Latin and Asian-inspired dishes (both sold in 2008). Recognizing a need for great comfort food for stressed-out travelers, in February 2011 she brought her talents as an executive chef to Miami International Airport (in American Airlines terminal) with the opening of Lorena Garcia Cocina, a healthier take on traditional Latin cuisine. She opened her second traveler’s restaurant in August 2012 at the Atlanta International Airport (Delta International) with plans for Dallas/Ft. Worth (American Airlines) in 2014.
Recently, Garcia has been tapped as a consultant for HMS Host, a global leader in creating dining experiences for travel venues, such as train stations and airports. The company operates in 112 airports around the globe, including the 20 busiest in North America, 99 travel plazas on motorways throughout the U.S. and Canada, and operates the destination retail stores at the Empire State Building and Space Center Houston. Garcia is now the consultant for HSM Host’s proprietary brands, working in menu consulting and recipe development along with other top celebrity chefs including, Rick Bayless, Todd English, Wolfgang Puck, Kathy Casey and David Burke. Garcia will now bring her delicious Latin flavor to travelers with Lorena Garcia Tapas, an eatery available at several international airports.
Given her Latin upbringing and charismatic personality, Garcia was first offered the chance to showcase her skills on Telemundo, Gems and Mundo TV, hosting the shows “Vida Gourmet,” “Cocine Mundos,” “De Mañanita” and “El Arte del Buen Gusto,” as well as the Utilisima/FoxLife series “Sazón con Lorena Garcia” and “Lorena en su Salsa.” Garcia has also served as a judge on “Cocineros al limite,” and is set to appear on Telemundo’s “Top Chef: Estrellas” in March 2014.
Garcia would go on to become one of the best-known Latin chefs in America as well, with appearances on Bravo as a guest chef on its “Top Chef All-Stars,” on NBC as a chef on “The Biggest Loser” and a judge and investor on “America’s Next Great Restaurant.” Garcia has also been featured on the CNN special documentary “Latinos in America” and as a guest on such talk programs as “Queen Latifah,” “The Talk,” “The Today Show” and “The Nate Berkus Show.” Her newest TV gig took Garcia to Las Vegas for Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters,” where she competed among a dozen award-winning chefs for the title and $100,000 for their charity of choice.
Taco Bell tapped Chef Garcia to create their “Cantina Bell” menu, gourmet-quality bowls and burritos built around fresh ingredients, vibrant flavors and authentic Latin recipes. These items were rolled out to over 5,600 Taco Bell restaurants in July 2012. Her love of freshness and flavor is mirrored in her commitment to healthier choices and the challenge of combating childhood obesity. Garcia developed “Big Chef, Little Chef” as a comprehensive non-profit program to help children and their families take control of their eating habits and, ultimately, their lives. At the Clinton Foundation’s Health Matters: Activating Health in Every Generation conference, Garcia pledged to lend her expertise to create healthier recipes available free to any school in the country, partnering with The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation was also her charity of choice for “Top Chef Masters.”
With her recipes featured in such periodicals as People Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Saveur, and even such business magazines as Kiplinger’s and Entrepreneur, Garcia’s first cookbook, Lorena Garcia’s New Latin Classics: Fresh Ideas for Favorite Dishes (Ballantine Books) was published in September 2011. Giving traditional and often complex Latin dishes a healthier, simpler makeover, Garcia teaches home cooks everywhere how to wow family and friends with delicious New Latin dishes and how to add a Latin accent to many others.
In addition to her cookbook, Garcia decided to take her love of helping others to cook at home a step further, with her new cookware line, the Lorena Bella Kitchen Collection available for purchase on HSN, HSN.com and HSN mobile. Her line features Oven to Table Serveware By Corningware®, inter-twining tradition and function in chic colors and multi-function products designed to save time and energy in the kitchen while making cooking approachable and more fun. The Lorena Bella Collection also includes Ceramic Cookware and Bakeware with HSN Exclusive Innovative Technolon+ Ceramic Non-Stick Technology, a patented ceramic based nano non-stick technology, health conscious cookware that is PTFE and PFOA free, environmentally friendly, using less energy to manufacture, scratch, abrasion and heat resistant, light-weight, dishwasher safe, all available in chic colors making a stylish and modern collection with a splash Latin flair.
For more information, recipes, photos and more, please visit her website: www.ChefLorenaGarcia.com. Follow her on Facebook (LorenaGarciaOnline) and Twitter (@LorenaGarcia).
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