Steve Ells

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Steve Ells
Born (1965-09-12) September 12, 1965 (age 53)
Alma materUniversity of Colorado at Boulder (B.A.)
Culinary Institute of America
Years active1993–present
Known forFounding Chipotle Mexican Grill
Net worthUS$200million

Steve Ells (born September 12, 1965)[1] is an American businessman. He is the founder, former CEO, and Executive Chairman of Chipotle Mexican Grill. Ells founded Chipotle in 1993,[1] and under his direction,[2] the chain serves what it describes as "naturally raised meat" and promotes sustainable agriculture.[3]

On November 29, 2017, Chipotle announced Ells' resignation as CEO, pending the search for a new CEO with "turnaround expertise". Ells will serve as executive chairman following the appointment of a new CEO, and will also serve on the CEO search committee. As of February 13, 2018, Brian Niccol has been named CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Early life[edit]

Ells was born in Indianapolis, the son of a pharmaceutical executive.[4] He attended Boulder High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History and became a member of the Delta Chi fraternity. Ells later enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, graduating in 1990.[5]


Ells served for two years as a sous chef under Jeremiah Tower[6] at Stars restaurant in San Francisco prior to launching Chipotle. Ells opened a Chipotle themed taco store in Denver, Colorado near the University of Denver campus using $85,000 borrowed from his family and friends.[1][7][8] Ells served as CEO of the chain from 1993 until 2009, when he split co-CEO duties with Monty Moran.[9] Ells returned as sole CEO on December 12, 2016 upon Moran's retirement.[9] In 2007, Ells received the CEO of the Year Award from ColoradoBiz magazine.[3] He currently sits on the board of directors of the Land Institute.[1]

In 2010, Ells joined the judging and investment panel on NBC's series America's Next Great Restaurant alongside Bobby Flay, Curtis Stone and Lorena Garcia.[10] Ells had not previously watched reality television and was disillusioned with the experience.[11]

Chipotle announced on November 29, 2017 that Ells will step down as CEO following the appointment of a new CEO with "turnaround expertise." Ells will serve as executive chairman after the new CEO appointment, and will serve on the CEO search committee with fellow Chipotle board members Robin Hickenlooper and Ali Namvar.[12]


Ells has received criticism over his salary. In 2013, The New York Times reported he was paid $25.1 million, more than equivalent executives in companies like Ford, Boeing, and AT&T.[13] By the early 2010s, Ells and his co-CEO, Montgomery Moran, were paid more than $300 million. In May 2014 shareholders rejected a plan to further the executives' wages.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d "Steve Ells Profile". Chipotle Mexican Grill. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  2. ^ "Chipotle: Fast Food with 'Integrity'". Business Week. February 16, 2007. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Taylor, Mike. "2007 CEO of the year Chipotle's Steve Ells pursues fast-casual perfection". Colorado Business Magazine. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  4. ^ Ells, Steve (September 21, 2007). "Fine Fast Food". Time Magazine. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
  5. ^ Brand, Rachel (Dec 23, 2006). "Chipotle founder had big dreams". Rocky Mountain News. Archived from the original on May 3, 2016. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  6. ^ Parrish, Marlene (June 4, 2007). "Steve Ells Profile". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on May 3, 2016. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  7. ^ Mclaughlin, Katy (April 29, 2006). "The Next Big Flavor". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  8. ^ "The Top 10 Best Borrowed Sums in Business History". Kabbage. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  9. ^ a b Snider, Mike; Jones, Charisse (December 12, 2016). "Chipotle founder Ells becomes sole CEO". USA TODAY. Retrieved March 3, 2017.
  10. ^ Stanhope, Kate (June 10, 2010). "Curtis Stone and Two Others Join Bobby Flay Restaurant Series". Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  11. ^ Stein, Joel (July 23, 2012). "The Fast-Food Ethicist". Time Magazine. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  12. ^ "Chipotle Begins Search for New CEO". Chipotle Mexican Grill. November 29, 2017. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  13. ^ Gelles, David (May 14, 2014). "Soaring Earnings of Chipotle's 2 Bosses Raise Investor Unease". The New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2017.
  14. ^ Gelles, David (May 15, 2014). "Investors Reject Chipotle Chiefs' Pay Plan". The New York Times. Retrieved November 30, 2017.

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