Best Job Ever: Taco Bell Food Product Developer
If you’re obsessed with Taco Bell, working at our corporate headquarters in Irvine, California would probably be a dream come true for you. From architects to video producers to lawyers, you can pursue whatever you’re passionate about with your favorite brand ever, a.k.a. Taco Bell. Professional Snapchatter and sauce packet wisdom writer? Hey, someone’s gotta do it. In this series, we’ll give you all the details about some of the Best Jobs Ever at Taco Bell Corporate.
First up, one of the masterminds behind some of your favorite menu items at Taco Bell, Steven Gomez. Steven is one of the people behind our latest innovation, the Naked Chicken Chalupa. He is also one of the geniuses that thought it would be a great idea to turn a Doritos chip into a taco shell. Yeah, that’s this guy!
We sat down with Steven to learn more about him and how he landed one of the Best Jobs Ever at Taco Bell Corporate.
Question: What is a Food Product Developer and how would you describe your job at Taco Bell?
Steven Gomez: Being a Food Product Developer has two important requirements: you need to love science and you need to love eating food. A lot of my job is dreaming up new food ideas with my team and then figuring out the most delicious combination of ingredients, flavors, textures, colors, forms, etc. We talk to consumers all the time to get feedback on our new ideas, and besides tasting great we have to make sure all of our restaurant team members can execute the idea we dreamed up in the test kitchen.
Q: What did you study in school?
SG: Food science, it’s a thing! I went to Rutgers University in New Jersey. I always loved dreaming up new ideas, inventing things, science, and of course food, so it was a really obvious fit for me.
Q: How did you come into your role at Taco Bell?
SG: Early in my career I had two dreams: I wanted to experience living in sunny California, and I wanted to work for an amazing brand where I could create new menu items with ingredients I truly loved. I thought, ‘I could become the guy who creates new food at Taco Bell headquarters.’ 10 years later I can’t believe I am actually that guy!
Q: Which masterpieces have you helped create at Taco Bell?
SG: Some of my favorite menu items I helped create are the Doritos Locos Taco, Quesarito, Quesalupa, Naked Chicken Chalupa, and some top secret ideas no one knows about yet. When you help develop a really successful menu item, you think, ‘We’re never going to have an idea as big as that again.’ Then we do the impossible, just like we did with the new Naked Chicken Chalupa. We reinvented the Chalupa in a crazy new way!
Q: Out of all the menu items you've created, which is your favorite?
SG: Ideas can come at the most unexpected times and places. Imagine getting a text message from a colleague that said, “What if we made a taco out of Chicken Milanese?” This idea sounded crazy at first, but it inspired our team to think differently. After trying many test kitchen recipes, we came up with the Naked Chicken Chalupa. It was an immediate hit at Taco Bell Headquarters and we knew our consumers would love it too.
Q: What is your favorite menu item to eat personally?
SG: Since I am around new food ideas all day, my favorite menu item to eat is actually a simple classic - a customized steak quesadilla. It’s a quesadilla with double steak, no sauce and a side of reduced-fat sour cream with Diablo sauce in it. It’s the perfect combination - steak, melted cheese and a dip with a kick that never gets old!
Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?
SG: The most challenging part of the job is that the need for new, innovative ideas never stops. That’s also what makes it really exciting here, it’s never boring. But leading and never following is a rich part of Taco Bell history, so we get to dream a lot. Plus, we have the right culture and environment at headquarters to make these ideas come to life.
Q: What’s the best part of your job?
SG: The best part of my job is seeing our consumers taste and experience a new menu item for the first time. When we have a menu item that’s a winner, getting to see the genuine excitement from people and seeing them take out their phones to take and share pictures with their friends is the coolest part.
Q: Advice to future Taco Bell Food Product Developers?
SG: Never rule out an idea because you think it’s not good enough. Find a coworker or friend that thinks differently than you to help build on your ideas. And lastly, don't just do the work given to you. Go above and beyond for those ideas that you’re truly passionate about.
Q: What's next at Taco Bell that we can expect from you and the team?
SG: I think it’s time to reinvent the burrito like you’ve never seen before. Making the outside, as good as in the inside. What do you think?
Who knows, maybe one day you could be dreaming up Taco Bell’s next big product innovation. Are you interested in a career at Taco Bell? Click here to explore current job openings and apply.