Steve Ells

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Steve Ells
Born (1966-09-12) September 12, 1966 (age 50)
Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
Alma mater University of Colorado at Boulder (B.A.)
Culinary Institute of America
Known for Founding Chipotle Mexican Grill
Net worth US$400 million

Steve Ells (born September 12, 1966)[1] is an American businessman. He is the founder, CEO, and 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]

Early life[edit]

Ells was born in Indianapolis, the son of a pharmaceutical executive.[4] He attended Boulder High School, the University of Colorado at Boulder (receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History) and 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[1][7] and now sits on the board of directors of the Land Institute.[1] He borrowed money from family and friends to open the first Chipotle.[8]

We decided long ago that we didn't want Chipotle's success to be tied to the exploitation of animals, farmers, or the environment, but the engagement of our customers.

— Steve Ells[9]

In 2007, Ells received the CEO of the Year Award from ColoradoBiz magazine.[3]

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 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.[11] By the early 2010s, Ells and his co-chief, Montgomery Moran, were paid more than $300 million. In May 2014 shareholders rejected a plan to further the executives' wages.[12]


  1. ^ a b c d "Steve Ells Profile". Chipotle Mexican Grill. 
  2. ^ "Chipotle: Fast Food with 'Integrity'". Business Week, February 16, 2007. 
  3. ^ a b "2007 CEO of the year Chipotle's Steve Ells pursues fast-casual perfection". Colorado Business Magazine, Mike Taylor. 
  4. ^ "Fine Fast Food". Time Magazine, Steve Ells. September 21, 2007. Retrieved May 24, 2010. 
  5. ^ "Chipotle founder had big dreams". Rocky Mountain News, Rachel Brand, Dec 23, 2006. 
  6. ^ "Steve Ells Profile". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Marlene Parrish, June 04, 2007. 
  7. ^ Mclaughlin, Katy (April 29, 2006). "The Next Big Flavor". The Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2006, Katie McLaughlin. 
  8. ^ "The Top 10 Best Borrowed Sums in Business History". Kabbage. Retrieved 2016-04-04. 
  9. ^ "Eat a Burrito, Help a Family Farm.". Business Wire 8/28/2007, Denver. Retrieved 2016-04-04. 
  10. ^ "Curtis Stone and Two Others Join Bobby Flay Restaurant Series". 
  11. ^ Gelles, David (May 14, 2014). "Soaring Earnings of Chipotle's 2 Bosses Raise Investor Unease". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ Gelles, David (May 15, 2014). "Investors Reject Chipotle Chiefs' Pay Plan". The New York Times. 

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