Miami Chef Lorena Garcia Created Taco Bell's New "Cantina" Menu

On July 5, the Taco Bell menu will transform into a new "upscale" Cantina Bell menu that some are saying rivals Chipotle's.

The new high-quality and value-driven menu comes from the mind of Miami chef Lorena Garcia. It will feature items such as the Cantina Burrito, the Cantina Burrito Bowl, and tacos made with black beans, fire-roasted corn salsa, cilantro rice, pico de gallo, and citrus-and-herb-marinated chicken.

Taco Bell approached Garcia two years ago to develop a new menu style that will debut next month at nearly 5,600 restaurants. Garcia, who is originally from Venezuela, tapped into her culinary past to design and test the new menu, which was launched at the Taco Bell headquarters and then tested in a handful of select stores.

The new menu will also include sides such as guacamole, chips, black beans, and rice, and all items will be part of the permanent menu.

Garcia lives in Miami and is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University. She is one of 11 chefs competing on season four of Bravo's Top Chef Masters and is also the owner and executive chef of Lorena Garcia Cocina at Miami International Airport.

Garcia says she does not want the Cantina Bell menu to be compared to Chipotle's. Unlike the $8-plus burrito bowls at Chipotle, the new Taco Bell menu items will be affordable, she says, costing $3 less.

"It's definitely a change for the brand," Garcia says. "What I'm really trying to do is change the perspective in flavors and stay current in what our customers are wanting."

The new items will offer more healthful choices and will include more ingredients and flavor. There will be smaller portions that emphasize presentation.

"I do not make diet food, but I am very health-conscious," Garcia says. "When I bring my menu together, I definitely have that in mind."

In 2011, Taco Bell sales slumped a bit, and the Yum! Brands restaurant chain is hoping the new menu will spices things up. The first quarter of this year saw increased sales with the help of the new Doritos Locos Tacos. 

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