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Lorena Garcia's Path to Celebrity Chef

She set out to practice law, but then fame came calling.

Photos by Jeffrey Salter/Redux and Miki Duisterhof

THEN: Lorena Garcia planned to pursue a legal career when she immigrated to the U.S. from Venezuela. Instead, she got hooked on cooking and never looked back. When she appeared on our How to Make a Million cover in March 2007, Garcia was already a rising star in the Miami culinary community, where she was the executive chef at her own restaurant and hosted cooking shows on Hispanic television.

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NOW: Garcia, 46, plans to open her third airport-based restaurant, in Dallas–Fort Worth, early next year. She already operates one in Miami (Lorena Garcia Cocina) and one in Atlanta (Lorena Garcia Tapas). In Miami, she also owns what she calls a “culinary loft,” a 5,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor kitchen that can accommodate corporate events, cooking demonstrations, TV shows and private dinners. Garcia recently published her second cookbook, Lorena Garcia’s New Taco Classics, which she describes as “the bible for tacos, in all their variations,” with an emphasis on simple preparation and healthful ingredients. A judge on Telemundo’s Top Chef Estrellas, the Hispanic version of Bravo’s Top Chef, Garcia established her reputation in the U.S. as a semifinalist on Top Chef Masters. She has also appeared on the NBC show Food Fighters and on Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games, and she will be featured on Talia’s Kitchen, a children’s series for Nickelodeon.

Despite her impressive résumé, Garcia doesn’t consider herself a celebrity chef. “If you keep that perception of yourself internally, you’re in trouble.” The key, she says, is staying in touch by staying in the kitchen. “It’s the difference between writing your own cookbook [which she did in six months] and hiring someone else to do it.”


For Garcia, it’s particularly gratifying that her Lorena Bella Kitchen Collection on HSN is being represented by Joy Mangano. Mangano, who invented the Miracle Mop and went on to amass more than 100 patents, built a multimillion-dollar company selling her products on HSN (Joy, a film inspired by Mangano’s life story and starring Jennifer Lawrence, is set to open in theaters on December 25). “We were in conversation for over a year to create a kitchen collection for HSN,” says Garcia. “Joy has been my mentor in representing my brand, which has helped me focus.”

Focus, she says, is what helps her keep many balls in the air: “Just take it one thing at a time, and give everything 100%.” For budding chefs (and other would-be entrepreneurs), her best advice is to become a master at what you do to gain confidence. “Simplify, focus, execute. Those are the keys.”

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