San Antonio chef reinvents Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme and talks cuisine and cultural influences

A San Antonio chef has been hired by Taco Bell to launch an inaugural culinary program and reimagine the iconic Crunchwrap Supreme.

Jennifer Dobbertin, chef and owner of Best Quality Daughter near the Pearl, is one of the chefs chosen across the country to participate in Taco Bell’s TBX program.

She discussed the collaboration, her food and her influences.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Dobbertin: Myself and two other chiefs of the country are the first chiefs – we were the chosen ones. It’s this guy Ruben based in Philadelphia and this guy Lawrence based in Phoenix. And we are tasked or tasked with re-imagining the Crunchwrap Supreme. In the long term, they’re going to make it this program that any leader in the country can apply for.

Navarro: We’re currently sitting at Best Quality Daughter, which offers Asian-American fusion cuisine with a South Texas twist. Can you tell us a little about your diet and how your cultural heritage has influenced what you prepare and the type of food you serve people?

Dobbertin: When people ask me what type of food I cook, I simply try to cook dishes that represent my experience rather than striving for authenticity or reinventing something for the sake of it.

I have my life experiences growing up in South Texas. I was born and raised in San Antonio. I have the quintessential San Antonio experience. I grew up on the West Side, but my mother is Chinese and they owned a restaurant, but it wasn’t a Chinese restaurant, it was like a restaurant. So I grew up eating South Texas food, just coming from San Antonio, but also eating a lot of Chinese food because my mom was Chinese. And then I just have a very Texan experience, but with a Chinese swing to it.

And then I moved abroad after college. I lived in Bangkok for six years, when I was in my twenties, very impressionable. It’s all sort of a mix of South Texas – or San Antonio actually – meets Chinese meets Southeast Asia, with a lot of my travel experience mixed in there.

Jennifer Hwa Dobbertin, chef and owner of Best Quality Daughter at the Pearl, was one of three chefs selected to participate in Taco Bell’s inaugural TBX program. Dobbertin is responsible for putting her spin on this popular menu item.

Navarro: Regarding the Crunchwrap, is there any snack, Chinese food, Asian food, that you have eaten in the past or that you know about that is maybe similar to it or which has similarities to something like this?

Dobbertin: Yes. I think every culture has a vegetable and meat wrapped in a crusty texture. If you look hard enough, it exists. My mother is from Taiwan and her parents are from the mainland. They fled the civil war and moved – “displaced” – they fled the civil war to Taiwan in the late ’40s. So my mother was born in Taiwan, but she’s Chinese.

But in Taiwan — they also have them in China, but it’s very specific to Taiwan — they have this… they’re called fantuan but I call them a Chinese breakfast burrito because it’s like sticky rice, and then sometimes you can put a fried egg or an omelet in there. And pickles, like a pickled radish. And sometimes a sweet bean paste. And they roll them up and they have all this crunch in them, and it kind of looks like a sushi roll.

They are very omnipresent in Taiwanese breakfast. I think about it because it’s like starch, crunchy vegetables, meat (it’s) omnipresent in Taiwan, like (the) Crunchwrap is omnipresent at Taco Bell.

Navarro: Every culture has its own vision, right? As with a tortilla, each culture has its own view on the matter.

Dobbertin: Exactly. Absolutely. There’s roti, you know, everyone has it… it’s a must. In northern China, my grandfather was a pastry chef and so he was the one who prepared these dishes. I haven’t met him. He died before I was born.

But what he was making, which is one of my favorite Chinese pastries, is like these sesame buns that you open up and stuff. For breakfast you can stuff them with bean paste and the like.

So they core them and stuff them with ground pork and leeks. And it’s a really good dish because I also feel like it’s like crusty bread and stuffing.

Navarro: Looking ahead, do you have any thoughts on what you plan to do for your version of the Crunchwrap?

Dobbertin: Yeah. I think now that I have a schedule, we’re going back to the test kitchen this spring, and from there I need to have more solid ideas to present. I have a list of ideas in my phone, and I would say 80% of them are really stupid, so I kind of study them.

The great thing about Taco Bell is that they really didn’t put any limits on us. They don’t say, “You have to cook Asian food.” You have to make something that is the best quality, girl. It was like, do whatever you want. It should simply be shaped like a Crunchwrap. I have a lot of ideas, but none of them have come to fruition.

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