Chef Lorena Garcia
Venezuelan-born chef, restaurateur, TV host and published author Lorena Garcia is one of the country’s leading Latina chefs. A judge and investor on NBC’s“America’s Next Great Restaurant” and a guest chef on the season finale of Bravo’s “Top Chef All-Stars,” she’s a competitor on season four of Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters”. August 2012 she opened her second traveler’s restaurant, Lorena Garcia Tapas at the Atlanta Airport, in the wake of her flagship Lorena Garcia Cocina in Miami. With her recipes already featured in numerous magazines, Ballantine Books published her first cookbook, Lorena Garcia’s New Latin Classics. If this weren’t enough, Taco Bell recently debuted its new Cantina Bell menu, featuring vibrant flavors and authentic recipes from Garcia’s own kitchen.
Garcia first embraced a love of food as a child, most bountifully at family gatherings while growing up in Caracas, Venezuela. She earned a law degree from Santa Maria University and immigrated to the U.S., She finished her associate degree and paralegal studies while learning English, but she soon realized her heart wasn’t 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 with the opening of Lorena Garcia Cocina, a healthier take on traditional Latin cuisine. Lorena Garcia Tapas opened in August 2012 at Atlanta International Airport, to be followed by Dallas/Ft. Worth in early 2014.
Given her Latin upbringing and charismatic personality, Garcia was first offered the chance to showcase her skills on Telemundo, Gems and Mundo. She hosted the shows “Vida Gourmet,” “Cocine Mundos,” “De Mañanita” and “El Arte del Buen Gusto,” as well as the Utilisima series “Sazón con Lorena Garcia” and “Lorena en su Salsa and as a judge on “Cocineros al limite.” Garcia would go on to become one of the best-known Latin chefs in America with further appearances on Bravo as a guest chef on its “Top Chef All-Stars” and on NBC as a chef on “The Biggest Loser” and a judge and investor on “America’s Next Great Restaurant.” Featured on the CNN special documentary “Latinos in America” and as a guest on such talk programs as NBC’s “The Today Show” and the syndicated “The Nate Berkus Show,” her newest TV gig takes 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 of 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 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 is also her charity of choice for “Top Chef Masters.”
With her recipes featured in such periodicals as Cosmopolitan and Vogue, 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.
For more information, recipes, photos and more, please visit her website: www.ChefLorenaGarcia.com. Follow her on Facebook (ChefLorenaGarcia) and Twitter (@LorenaGarcia).
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