The Story Behind Taco Bell’s Fried Chicken Taco

Back in September, Taco Bell announced that it would be testing a new menu item: the Naked Crispy Chicken Taco. I’m sure you remember this test item, which is basically a taco made with a fried chicken shell and could only be seen on the menus of the Bakersfield, CA, T-Bell locations. I’m also sure that ever since this announcement, you’ve spent hours or even days musing over how in the world Taco Bell makes these fried chicken taco shells and where the idea came from in the first place. Well, your overwhelming curiosity can finally stop thanks to a report from BuzzFeed News. Here’s the breakdown: The chicken shells arrive at the restaurant locations seasoned and breaded. To get them to the perfect shell shape, the chicken is fried inside a contraption that holds it in place. It’s the same mechanism used to make the waffle tacos. So that's how they're made day-to-day, but how did this innovation even come to be? The chicken taco shell actually has a rich and winding history. The idea for the product, which has recently been renamed the “Naked Chicken Chalupa,” was first imagined back in 2013 by Heather Mottershaw, Taco Bell’s senior director of innovation. But apparently, executives of the fast food chain weren’t immediately onboard. Shocking, I know. Chief marketing officer Marisa Thalberg was among the skeptics. She told BuzzFeed News, “Think of all the crazy firsts that have existed in time and civilization. Dare we say even the creation of the wheel probably seemed a little odd at first, until someone said, ‘Ah, that’s really a good thing!’” It was an uphill battle, but thanks to the diligence of people like Steve Gomez, Taco Bell’s manager of product development, the idea for the chicken taco shell eventually came to fruition. Gomez calls the product his “passion project,” and he worked tirelessly to get executives and consumers to take it seriously. Blessedly, it looks like all the hard work is starting to pay off, as results and consumer feedback from the initial tests in California and now Kansas City are positive. This means, so far things are looking good for a nation-wide launch in the not-so-distant future. Fried chicken taco shells for all! What a world.

More from Food & Drinks

R29 Original Series