Few things can evoke civic pride as much as a hearty regional delicacy debate.
Don’t believe me? Try convincing someone from Philadelphia to get a cheesesteak anywhere outside of the city limits. Family holidays have been ruined because of the great New York vs. Chicago pizza debate. As far as the Carolinas are concerned, there is only one style of barbecue … and it depends on whether you’re from North or South.
In San Diego (home of the Chef Works U.S. headquarters) we take our California Burrito seriously. But news popped late in 2017 that Taco Bell was experimenting with a fast food version of the SoCal delicacy. Naturally, we turned to some San Diego chefs to weigh in on what happens when a fast food chain starts experimenting with foods that certain regions hold sacred.
“Taco Bell’s recent attempt at naming one of their burritos a ‘California Burrito,’ should be taken with as much seriousness as anyone trying tell you Taco Bell is real Mexican food,” said Chef Claudia Sandoval, MasterChef US Winner and a wizard of Mexican coastal cuisine. “The truth is Taco Bell isn’t a ‘traditionalist.’ They are experimental fast food that mixes all of the crazy cheesy, crispy, fatty fast foods everyone loves after a few beers and puts them in tortilla and calls them a taco, burrito or quesadilla. The only thing anyone should be sad or upset about here, is the fact that no one has managed to take the deliciousness of an actual carne asada burrito nationwide.”
She’s not alone in her thinking. Chef Priscilla Curiel of Talavera Azul in Chula Vista, Calif., just outside of San Diego, has a similar take.
“As a taco seller and Mexican, I think they are doing it wrong,” Curiel said. “The California Burrito is a staple of our city and it shouldn’t get ruined like other cuisines … It’s not authentic.”
Even regional fast food chains are subject to fierce debate. Southern Californians will defend In-N-Out against the Shake Shacks and Whataburgers of the world and vice-versa.
We’re still waiting to see what the returns are of Taco Bell’s experiment. The test city was Charleston, W. VA., and it was supposed to run through the end of 2017. In the meantime, we’ve got their nacho fries to look forward to, which reportedly launch Jan. 25.