What's one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?

I never set out to build a huge restaurant company. I was an aspiring chef who just wanted to have a restaurant...and then opened a little burrito shop to help make that happen. People have simply responded well to what I was doing, and that's enabled me to do so much more. But I'm still happiest when I'm in our restaurants working with our managers and crews.

I've heard you say that you don't find yourself particularly inspiring. Just out of curiosity, how would you describe yourself...if not inspiring?

Focused. I'm always focused on ways that we can make our restaurants better, down to the smallest details. I think that's helped define what Chipotle is all about.

What's your best trait?

My passion for food and cooking is what really made me want to go to cooking school, and it's also what gave rise to my career. When I discovered that passion, it really ignited something in me that led me to do all of the things I've done at Chipotle, and it was the inspiration for opening that first restaurant.

Your worst trait?

I always have such high expectations. That's a good thing, to the extent that it helps us run great restaurants, but it can be hard for people around me.

What's the recipe for becoming a great restaurateur?

I think that being a great restaurateur requires tremendous vision, a really keen sense of hospitality, the foresight to know what makes for a great dining experience, and a relentless focus on details.

What's in the pipeline?

My plate is pretty full right now. We're continuing to expand Chipotle and have planted some seeds for future growth, most notably with expansion into new countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom and France — and we're opening later this year in Germany. In moving into new countries, our focus right now is on building the Chipotle brand and developing the people we'll need to support our future growth. We're also in the early stages of developing ShopHouse, which is very encouraging to me and, in many ways, reminds me of when I opened the first Chipotle. People really seem to like it, and I think there could be a lot of future potential there. Needless to say, all of this is keeping me extremely busy.

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I liked Chipotle for a long time. It was reasonably priced, fresh and tasty. But when they crossed a certain price point it wasn't worth it anymore especially considering the many real Mex joints there are in the region I live (SoCal).


I can't believe it's been 20 years since I laid eyes on my first JUMBO BURRITO at Twist & Shout on South Pearl Street. I remember the open foil and porno-sized burrito with a couple of bites out of it, I blurted "WHAT IS THAT?" Went down the street to Evans and got my own.

Chipotle is still my favorite of the Big Burritos.


'All of Chipotle's locally grown produce comes from within 350 miles of the restaurants where it's served.'

While I commend Ells for his commitment to locally sourced produce, a 350 mile range is far, very far, from being truly considered 'locally grown'. 


What I love most about Chipotle is that the meat is from humanely raised animals.  It is the only place I will eat pork.  Factory farms are hell on earth for animals and I refuse to support them.  I think Chipotle should stress more often their choice of meat suppliers and why (I've seen it written on their paper cups and heard about it on Oprah's show).  Everything I've ever eaten at Chipotle is tops in flavor and freshness, and I believe a reverence for the life of the animals we eat plays a big part in this.   


I am proud of the success of home-grown Chipotle, and my wife, three kids and I eat there at least twice a month. And I believe Steve is a visionary. But he's a boring interview. 

I understand that "sustainable ingredients" is a Chipotle corporate key message, but using it in nearly every answer makes it just sound tired, and saps its meaning. I wish he had an interesting anecdote or two to share, specifically when Lori asked about the best customer feedback he's received, or what his worst trait is, or something he would have done differently. 

Although he was surprisingly open about the lawsuit and immigration questions.


Steve actually had a wonderfully creative(and trusting) contractor who found a way to get his first restaurant open on his $40,000 construction budget, coming up with quite a few of the solutions still carried out today: the corrugated metal, bare light bulb fixtures, plumbing pipes for counter legs, etc. It was exciting working with Steve and I was proud to be involved in the beginning of what turned out to be a  wonderful adventure for him. Still waiting for that bonus.

davebarnes topcommenter

"When are you bringing ShopHouse, your Southeast Asian fast-food concept, to Denver?"

He did not answer the question and you let him get away with that.


@caseyryank9 Considering how much corporate produce is brought in from Chile, 350-miles is getting closer to ideal.

LoriMidsonCafeSociety moderator editor

@davebarnesHe answered it when he said: "We aren't getting into detailed expansion plans at this time. That said, we're excited about the prospect, as we think the people in Denver would understand and appreciate ShopHouse just like they do Chipotle." 

davebarnes topcommenter

You asked "When?" and he said "aren't getting into".

I would have asked "when" over and over again until he caved. But, I am tenacious.