Visit to Taco Bell HQ and Test Kitchen (Blog from June '22, Part 1)
Updated: Jul 2
Last week I was given the opportunity to visit Taco Bell's headquarters as well as attend their 60th Anniversary party. I want to take this time to share a little of my experience as well as share some info about Taco Bell and this celebration.
First step was meeting up with the other invitees and Taco Bell staff at the HQ, located at 1 Glen Bell Way Irvine. We started with a tour and peak into the lives of a Taco Bell HQ employee. As employees enter every day, they are greeted by a blast from the past. The Taco Bell logo as seen on the first locations.
Along with this, other signs and boards show Taco Bell's goals and accomplishments as you walk down the hall to the front desk and main entrance. After you get past the main desk we enter a long hall displaying the history of The Bell and memorabilia from events of the past. This leads us down to the main cafeteria where, you guessed it, there's a built in Taco Bell! No worries - they don't HAVE to eat tacos every day of their life. There is also an onsite chef to prepare other options each day. On the main floor you'll also find a daycare as well as a huge fitness center - both available daily for the staff.
As we move our way up and throughout the HQ we notice all incredible points of design - from each elevator having it's own theme, to neon lights on the walls, to artwork like the ones you see in Taco Bell locations nationwide. Then you also have full walls that are perfect for photo opportunities like these.
These two photos were taken by Erin Fitzgerald, one of my fellow tour mates also invited out to the HQ. Erin is a charismatic, energy filled American artist from the Nashville area. Check out her portfolio online.
Up next we work our way to Taco Bell's famous test kitchen. Inside this exclusive area of the headquarters, culinary experts work their magic imagining, creating - testing new items and ingredients as well as repurposing old ones. With a full kitchen at hand and multiple mock restaurant lines, these creators have everything needed to innovate in the fast casual dining world.
In the test kitchen, the experts prepared a meal of 4 test items, 2 items set to go nationwide this year, dessert, and a surprise freeze. Of course I can't tell you about most of those, but I can tell you each one is packed with the innovation we know and love from Taco Bell.
The one item I can happily tell you about is the Big Cheez-It Tostada and Big Cheez-It Crunchwrap. We recently put out an article on this item when we found out it began testing at 2222 Barranca Pkwy, Irvine, CA - right down the road from the HQ. This test is only going for two weeks but I had the opportunity to test the tostada firsthand.
This tostada shell is 16x the size of a real Cheez-It (and tastes like one too). On top, beans (for me vegetarian version), sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, and shredded cheese.
Personally, I believe the Crunchwrap version would be phenomenal. I hope this test goes well and if it does we may see it on a nationwide menu in our future.
Here's what else I can tell you:
The dessert was 2 pancake batter delights. These were also served at the Taco Bell Drag Brunch and if anything deserves a 12-pack, it is these. Think Cinnabon delights but instead of Cinnabon....it's pancake. Delicious!
For the surprise freeze we ended off the taste testing with a fresh mango freeze served with a tamarind straw. The sweet, smoky, tangy straw really brought out the flavors of the citrus from the mango. For those who don't know, this straw is made from tamarind (fruit) pulp with chile powder coating.
After all the taste tests, we were each invited up to the line to make any item we wanted with the ingredients provided.
What did I make, you ask? I was able to acquire a small cup of the discontinued cheddar jalapeño sauce, only ever released with the Grilled Stuft Nacho (2014, 2015), and that's exactly what I made for my item. The GSN consists of beans (instead of beef), nacho cheese, sour cream, the sauce, and colored tortilla strips - all folded from a large tortilla into a triangle.
And yes, we had unlimited refills of Mountain Dew Baja Blast the entire time touring the HQ.
Just like that the tour was over and we had a 5 hour break before the 60th Anniversary Party started.
**Part 2: Stay tuned to read all about Taco Bell's 60th anniversary party, Número Uno, Live Más Day, and more on Thursday, June 30, 2022.** Edit: Read part two here!