People who know the media know the way to our hearts is through our stomachs. So when Chipotle Mexican Grill offered to bring our whole office lunch tomorrow--no strings attached—the reaction was an almost unanimous “Bring it on!” Oh, a few naysayers said they thought free tacos might place us in a compromising situation as journalists but their whining was quickly drowned out by majority rule.
Meanwhile I was too embarrassed to ask what Chipotle was; questions like that are the fastest way to get pegged as old and impossibly out of touch. (I know this because I learned the hard way when I asked if the Kings of Leon was a motorcycle gang.) These days I make it a point to interrogate the 25 year-olds in my office and in my neighborhood about everything they are doing and like and don’t like, from Keurig machines and Brazilian waxes to Chick-fil-A. So I quietly decided to get the Chipotle story—and now I am really intrigued.
Maybe everyone knows this, but Chipotle raised the bar on fast food with is first restaurant in what was once a Dolly Madison ice cream shop in Denver in 1993. It was the brainchild of Culinary Institute of America grad and chef Steve Ellis, who had a “passion” for cooking and restaurants. Ellis was inspired by the taquerías he frequented in San Francisco, where he had moved for his first chef job. He said that’s where he first really learned to cook and to “taste critically,” but it was the ingredients and the simple set-up of the taquería that got him thinking he “could use authentic ingredients but put my own spin on them.”
The first Chipotle was “wildly successful,” led to several more, and a serious investment by McDonald’s in 1998. McDonald’s divested itself of Chipotle (and other non-core businesses) in 2006, and Chipotle is now traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Today, the chain numbers more than 1,500. Its trademark is “food with integrity,” which means it uses fresh sustainably grown and locally sourced ingredients—including synthetic hormone-free cows
So in accepting this free lunch tomorrow, we may have no integrity--but I know the food will. And that’s good enough for me. I can’t wait to try it for the first time, and I suspect I will be a new fan.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Fifth Avenue Shops
1666 N. Federal Highway, Suite A