Steve Ells ’90 Founder of Chipotle Mexican Grill

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Steve Ells ’90, Founder and CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill

Steve Ells ’90, Founder and CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill

Founder and CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill and CIA alumnus Steve Ells has unlocked the secret to a successful, and sustainable, business model with his “Food with Integrity” initiative. From humanely raised beef to hormone-free sour cream, Steve incorporates high-quality ingredients into his menu because, as he says, “they ultimately result in better-tasting food.” The transformation to a more ethical menu occurred gradually as business grew. The effect is not only more flavorful food, but greater customer loyalty and increased sales.

In 1990, Steve received his degree from the CIA. Inspired by eating at taquerias in San Francisco, he returned home to Denver in hopes of opening a similarly themed establishment that would help fund his ultimate dream of owning a “real” restaurant. So, armed with a loan from his father, he launched his first very first burrito restaurant.

Leading a booming success with 560-plus sites, Ells sees an opportunity to open doors for CIA students by creating a scholarship for those who share his philosophy for sustainability. The Chipotle Mexican Grill Annual Scholarship will award $2,500 to an emerging culinary professional demonstrating support for sustainable agricultural practices consistent with Chipotle’s philosophy.

In addition, Steve will establish the Chipotle Mexican Grill Endowed Scholarship Fund, making it possible to award $2,500 each year in perpetuity to students who share Chipotle’s commitment to sustainable agriculture.

“My time at The Culinary Institute of America provided a great foundation when I was starting my career and taught me many lessons that are still valuable today,” Steve explains. “In many ways I was lucky. Not everyone has the resources or support they need to help realized their dreams.

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