David Chang vs. Chipotle and More News
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In today's Media Mix, 6,000 gallons of Scotch wasted, plus Cracker Jack gets a revamp
The Daily Meal brings you the biggest news from the food world.
6,000 Gallons of Scotch: A truck carrying 6,000 gallons of Scotch turned over and caught on fire in New Jersey. No word on what type of Scotch, but we mourn the loss. [Home News Tribune of East Brunswick]
Beer Ad Stirs Paella Controversy: A new ad depicts the creation of paella, except they add onions, prompting some people to call the controversy "Paellagate." [TIME]
Cracker Jack Revamp: The 120-year-old snack is introducing new flavors, including Kettle Corn and Butter Toffee. [LA Times]
David Chang vs. Chipote: A new lawsuit filed by a British reality-TV chef against Chipotle claims that Chipotle stole ramen ideas from David Chang without telling the plaintiff, putting his career in danger. Chipotle has told The Daily Meal they do not comment on pending litigation. [NY Post]
Coffee Shops Offering Wireless Charging: The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is offering wireless charging for phones in San Francisco. [Ubergizmo]
‘Ugly Delicious’ Explores MSG Myths in ‘Fried Rice’
What is Chinese food and why do Westerners view it differently — and Asian food more broadly — than other cuisines? This is the crux of episode seven of Netflix’s new series with chef David Chang, Ugly Delicious. The founder of the Momofuku restaurant group uses fried rice as a springboard for conversations about how Chinese food is largely misunderstood and devalued in American culture. Chang gathers together a group of critics, chefs, and tastemakers to help tell the story, including Master of None co-creator Alan Yang, Chinese food expert Fuchsia Dunlop, and Eater NY’s own Serena Dai.
The episode opens with a roundtable discussion of the ubiquity of fried rice and Chinese food that culinary historian Jennifer 8. Lee notes is “the most pervasive food on the planet,” being served on seven continents including Antarctica — sweet and sour pork is even available on the International Space Station. Chang then meets Dunlop for a tasting of traditional imperial Chinese cuisine inside the Summer Palace, a relic of the Qing Dynasty in Beijing.
Following a conversation with former New York Times restaurant critic Ruth Reichl about her two-star 1994 review of Great N.Y. Noodletown, Change meets up with Serena Dai in Knoxville, Tennessee, to talk with the owner of a restaurant from her childhood about the difference between traditional Chinese food and Americanized versions of the cuisine. After an interlude at San Francisco hot spot Mister Jiu’s, Chang and Gillian Ferguson practice ordering from the “secret menu” at Newport Seafood in San Gabriel, California.
Later, the Momofuku chef/restaurateur pays a visit to Caesars Palace in Las Vegas where high-end cooks cater to the palates of Chinese diners. By serving common snack foods to a test group, Chang also tests out a theory that Americans are subconsciously wary of MSG due to prejudiced notions of Asian cuisine. And the episode concludes with a well-documented trip to Toronto’s Fishman Lobster Clubhouse Restaurant, home of the formidable Lobster Mountain.
Sidekicks and special guests
• Serena Dai, Eater NY editor
• Alan Yang, co-creator of Master of None
• Ed Schoenfeld, owner of RedFarm
• Joe Ng, chef at RedFarm
• Jennifer 8. Lee, Chinese food historian
• Fuchsia Dunlop, Chinese food historian
• Ruth Reichl, chef, author, editor, and New York Times restaurant critic (1993-1999)
• Chen P. Ren, owner of New China Palace
• Gillian Ferguson, food writer
• Wendy Lam, owner of Newport Seafood
• Gary Selesner, president of Caesars Palace
• Liye Sang, Asia Kitchen owner’s son
• Kris Yenbamroong, chef/owner of Night + Market
• Ian Mosby, food historian
• Chris Nuttall-Smith, former Toronto food critic
• Raymond Xie, owner of Fishman Lobster Clubhouse Restaurant
Restaurants and dishes featured in the episode
Wu’s Wonton King (New York, New York)
What they eat: golden fried rice and assorted dishes
Ting Li Guan (Beijing, China)
What they eat: Imperial Chinese cuisine including mandarin duck made of egg white, sea cucumber, and deer tendons
New China Palace (Knoxville, Tennessee)
What they eat: cashew shrimp with snow peas, General Tso’s chicken
Mister Jiu’s (San Francisco, California)
What they eat: steak fried rice with wagyu sirloin, broccoli, and egg
Newport Seafood Restaurant (San Gabriel, California)
What they eat: secret menu with fried rice, crab, a cold cucumber starter, and lobster
Beijing Noodle No. 9 (Las Vegas, Nevada)
What they eat: hand-stretched noodles with tomato and scrambled egg, Sichuan fish
Asia Kitchen (Knoxville, Tennessee)
What they eat: intestines
Night + Market (Los Angeles, CA)
What they eat: pork fried rice and crab fried rice
Fishman Lobster Clubhouse Restaurant (Scarborough, Canada)
What they eat: the “Lobster Mountain”
The best lines
“No one ever said Doritos made them sick. Look on the package. There’s MSG.” — David Chang on MSG perceptions
“There’s the asshole we were looking for. He was sitting at our table.” — Alan Yang after Ed Schoenfeld says fried rice with caviar is delicious
“Whenever you go to a place like this, you go to the fish tank.” — Chang at Newport Seafood in Los Angeles
“You’re so optimistic, but Italians are white.” — Serena Dai to Alan Yang, on the subject of whether or not Americans will someday become knowledgeable about Chinese food like they are about Italian food
“I want to believe him, I really do.” — Chang after being told by Liye Sang of Asia Kitchen that the restaurant sells more intestines than lo mein noodles
“Maybe we don’t give people enough credit.” — Dai, in response to the intestine claim
“No, we give people too much credit.” — Chang, in response to Dai’s reaction to the intestine claim
“If I make 100 percent Chinese [food], no business.” — Chen P. Ren of New China Palace on why he doesn’t offer traditional Sichuan food on his menu
“There are some pretty vile things that are associated with food that no one ever really wants to talk about.” — Chang on racism and its relationship with how Americans perceive Chinese food
“Oh, the heads are really key. Part of life. Taking photos of food.” — Yang on documenting the Lobster Mountain
“I’m a classicist at heart. I love French three-Michelin-starred dining, I love all of that stuff. But for me this is equal or more joy now than eating anything that super-fancy.” — Chang about the magic of the Lobster Tower
Click here for Eater’s complete guide to Ugly Delicious
And head to Eater’s new Facebook group Eat, Drink, Watch to talk about this and other food-focused shows and films
David Chang on the Momofuku Empire’s Disastrous Beginning
“I had no idea what I was doing, and I was spectacularly alone. Nobody wanted to work for a dude who had bailed on his job to chase a crackpot scheme.”
“My husband really knows ramen, and this is not ramen.”
The woman approached me one night a few months into Momofuku Noodle Bar’s existence. She didn’t give her name. She introduced herself as Let me tell you and plowed straight ahead: “I’m in the industry, my husband is Japanese, and he and I have spent many years eating around the world together.”
I nodded my head and pursed my lips. I tried to communicate telepathically: Okay, say your piece, so we can both get on with our lives.
She took my silence as an invitation to continue.
“The noodles are awful. Nothing like real ramen or any noodles I’ve had in Asia. If you think you’re making Japanese food, I’m sorry, you’re sorely mistaken. Actually, I have to ask you: have you ever even been to Japan? How can you charge people for this?”
Chipotle founder Steve Ells discusses the ingredients behind two decades in business
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There are thirteen "characteristics" required of Chipotle employees, who now number more than 40,000. One is "infectious enthusiasm." Another is "happy" &mdash you must be happy. Half-time happy doesn't cut it.
And it's those attributes &mdash along with fast food focused on slow-food philosophies, resulting in burritos that make loyal fans very, very happy &mdash that have elevated Chipotle Mexican Grill to worldwide dominance and earned its founder, Steve Ells, the title of Most Inspiring CEO in America last year from Esquire.
Ells grew up in Boulder in a food-centric family. From the very beginning, he had aspirations of becoming a chef, going on from the University of Colorado to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, with the intention of opening a fine-dining restaurant, one similar to Stars in San Francisco, where Ells cooked under the tutelage of star chef Jeremiah Tower. But while he had the chef's jacket and a few solid years of experience in a renowned kitchen, he didn't have the money to invest in a full-fledged restaurant. Instead, he had a novel, minimal-monetary-risk idea that could catapult that dream to fruition: a little burrito shack called Chipotle Mexican Grill.
"After a two-year stint at Stars, I wanted to start my own full-service restaurant, but I didn't have the funds to do so, so I got a modest loan from my parents and opened Chipotle with the goal of having it fund that restaurant," says Ells, who unleashed his first Chipotle on July 13, 1993, in an 850-square-foot former Dolly Madison ice cream shop at 1644 East Evans Avenue, near the University of Denver.
"I knew it wasn't a high-traffic area, but it was affordable to me, and I could just sort of envision what Chipotle would look like in that space, so I jumped in there with a contractor and we transformed it," says Ells, who recalls hauling his butt to the hardware store to buy the plywood, barn metal and conduit to make Chipotle's often-mimicked utilitarian light fixtures. "I didn't have much money, so we had to make these very simple parts from the hardware store work in order to create the design."
The initial lightbulb for the Chipotle concept came on while Ells was in San Francisco, eating at one of the taquerias in the city's Mission District. He was inhaling a burrito &mdash a "giant tortilla" &mdash that was stuffed with traditional Mexican ingredients and wrapped in foil. "I'd never seen anything like that before," he remembers, "but I had an idea that I could use these authentic ingredients and put my own twists on them."
The "twists" worked. "Even though I knew we would serve food fast, I didn't want it to be a typical fast-food experience," explains Ells, who admits he "knew very little about the fast-food rules." Still, his experiences at culinary school and Stars had taught him that applying classic cooking techniques to fast food wasn't out of the realm of possibility. "Fast food is typically made with highly processed, cheap ingredients and prepared in very industrialized ways," notes Ells, who wasn't remotely interested in pursuing that route. "Chipotle was going to incorporate all the things I had learned at the Culinary Institute and Stars, and really elevate typical fast food."
Chipotle was a smash from the start, and within a year and a half, Ells opened a second location. "When I told my friends and family that I was leaving Stars to open a burrito shop in Denver, they thought I was crazy, but not long after the success of the first Chipotle, I knew I had to open just one more, so I opened a second one on Colorado Boulevard, which turned out to be even busier than the first," Ells says. "Customers just loved what we were doing, and the lines kept getting longer. so we kept opening more."
And more. and more. and more. There are currently 1,450 Chipotle locations spanning the globe, with more &mdash hundreds more &mdash on the horizon. And while Ells has added another fast-food concept to his repertoire, an Asian restaurant called ShopHouse, he's backed away from his initial dream of opening an upscale restaurant. "People often ask me if I'll ever open that restaurant," he muses. "I have no plans for that now. We're completely focused on our larger mission of providing sustainably raised ingredients in an accessible format. I think we're having much more of an impact with the Chipotle concept than if I'd stuck to my original plan."
And while Chipotle is an extremely straightforward concept, Ells emphasizes that his fundamental convictions are the same as they would be for fine dining, despite the detour to a fast-food empire. "The key is using really beautiful ingredients &mdash and this idea of taking a very simple ingredient and making it something that's more extraordinary is a theme at Chipotle," he says.
A Chipotle kitchen functions like that of a bona fide fine-dining restaurant, he notes: "There's constantly meats on the grill, always some beans simmering on the stove, vegetables sautéeing in the pan, whole avocados, fresh herbs on the stems, knives, cutting boards, pots and pans and lots of prep work going on it's not at all automated, and our customers can taste the difference, because we bring out the best in our food." And much of that food is local, he stresses.
In fact, Chipotle will serve more than fifteen million pounds of locally grown produce in its restaurants this year, up from its 2012 goal of ten million pounds. "As the only national restaurant company with a significant commitment to using local produce on a large scale, we've steadily increased our locally sourced produce supply since beginning the program in 2008," says Ells. All of Chipotle's locally grown produce comes from within 350 miles of the restaurants where it's served. To celebrate that commitment and educate its eaters, Chipotle started Cultivate, a free food, ideas and music festival, which will celebrate its third year in Denver on August 17. But in the meantime, in honor of its twentieth anniversary, Chipotle is offering customers around the globe the chance to win free Chipotle &mdash for life. (The Adventurrito contest starts July 13 go to westword.com for details.)
"We push ourselves to find the best-quality ingredients &mdash ingredients that have traditionally been available only in high-end restaurants and specialty food markets &mdash and making them available in a way that's accessible and affordable to everyone, which I think is a really important mission," concludes Ells, who in the following interview discusses the significance of high expectations, a frivolous lawsuit and his partnership with McDonald's, which started in 1998 and ended in 2006, when he took the company public.
Lori Midson: Talk about your upbringing. Was food an important element when you were young?
Steve Ells: I started cooking early on, as a very young child, so food and cooking have been important to me for as long as I can remember. I always liked to help my mom in the kitchen, and while other kids were watching cartoons and things, I was watching Julia Child. By the time I was in high school and college, I loved having dinner parties and entertaining friends over food. Many of my oldest memories involve food and the whole dining experience.
You graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and spent several years as a chef before opening Chipotle and becoming a household name in entrepreneurial restaurant-industry circles. Do you miss cooking?
I've always loved to cook, but I've moved on to do other things. I opened Chipotle with the idea of using it as a cash cow to help me finance a "real restaurant" &mdash the kind of place that was like Stars in San Francisco. But as Chipotle has grown, so, too, has our influence, and we're having more of an impact on the way people eat than I ever would have had if I'd stuck with my original plan. I still love to cook quite a bit, but I really like where I am now and what I'm doing.
Who's on the short list of chefs/restaurateurs who have most influenced you?
There are so many, but Jeremiah Tower, at Stars in San Francisco, had a lot of influence on me. When I graduated from cooking school, I went to work at Stars, which was one of my favorite restaurants in the country at the time, and that's where I really learned to cook and to taste food in a discerning way. There have been a lot of other chefs I've admired since then, but the experience at Stars was really important to me.
What are your ingredient obsessions?
Can I say chipotle peppers? We use chipotles in so much of our food &mdash in the marinade for the chicken and steak, the beans and the carnitas. I've always thought there was a lot of depth of flavor and nuances to them, and I named the restaurant after the chipotle pepper because it's in so many of our recipes &mdash and because I think its properties have been elevated and are really representative of what we do with the food in our restaurants.
What is your favorite piece of kitchen equipment?
What are your favorite ingredients to work with?
Whatever's fresh and really great quality. More often than not, it's more important to build around the best ingredients you can rather than trying to find something specific.
What food trend would you like to see in 2013?
From the Chipotle perspective, I've never really paid much attention to food trends. In our twenty years in business, we've seen a lot of trends come and go, but we've always stayed true to what we've done since the beginning. Ultimately, restaurants and cooking should be about great ingredients, classic cooking techniques and an extraordinary dining experience. Those are the things that we've always strived to achieve.
What food trend would you like to see disappear in 2013?
Anything that doesn't involve great ingredients, classic cooking and an extraordinary dining experience.
What's your temperament like?
I have very high expectations &mdash including high expectations of myself &mdash but I think that providing a great dining experience requires high expectations, which is something I've really tried to instill in the people working at Chipotle. Today we have more top-performing teams than ever before that's something that Monty Moran, our co-CEO and driver of people culture, really brought to Chipotle. Having top performers who are empowered to achieve high standards is critical when you have 1,500 restaurants around the world. We need the best people we can find to make sure the experiences we're providing are the best they can be &mdash and all of that starts with having high expectations.
The Chipotle concept, both the design and menu, is simple. If you had to do it all over again, is there anything that you would change?
I've had twenty years to make changes and not much has been tweaked. Part of what makes Chipotle work is its focus. By focusing on doing just a few things &mdash and doing them right &mdash we can do them better than anyone else does. People have loved Chipotle from the very beginning &mdash and they still do. In fact, we're still turning new customers on to Chipotle all the time.
Why did you choose Denver to open the first Chipotle?
I grew up in Boulder and wanted to move back there from San Francisco to open Chipotle, but then I was offered the old Dolly Madison space on Evans in Denver, and I fell in love with it. Shortly after I opened it, I moved to Denver.
Did you fund it on your own, or did you have to beg, borrow and steal?
I convinced my parents to invest in the restaurant before I moved to Denver &mdash and before I even had a name for the restaurant. Naturally they were skeptical, but they eventually decided to invest, and their $85,000 investment was the best investment they ever made.
Whenever anyone opens a restaurant, there are always cynics who say it'll never work. Did you have to deal with a posse of naysayers?
Most people were quite skeptical. I remember describing the concept in a lot of detail, and the feedback was that most everything was wrong, mostly because it was completely different from any other fast-food concept out there. Ironically, I believe that Chipotle has been successful because of those differences. And as customers tried it, I think they realized that those differences were very important to them, too. The idea that we could serve sustainably raised ingredients, prepared in an open kitchen with classical cooking techniques, and serve our food in an interactive format so that customers could get exactly what they want, was a new approach to fast food I just had no idea that it would be the new fast-food model.
Rumor has it that employee turnover, especially at the management level, is low. What do you do to retain employees?
When we hire new crew members, we do so with the intention of hiring our future leaders. Almost all of our managers started out as crew &mdash even our two restaurant support officers, Gretchen Selfridge and Mike Duffy, started out working with me in the restaurants when there were only a handful of Chipotles. There's a lot of room for our people to grow if they have the desire and ability to make those around them better. I also think that it's rewarding for people to find success in an organization that's always trying to do the right thing. Our team is proud of the food they serve they know the importance of sourcing ingredients that are raised in a more sustainable manner, and it makes them proud to be part of a company that's doing something that's larger than its product.
I've also heard that every employee hired by Chipotle must embody "thirteen characteristics." In case someone reading this wants to work for Chipotle, what are those characteristics?
You need to be polite, hospitable, smart, ambitious, curious, happy, respectful, honest, presentable, conscientious, motivated, infectiously enthusiastic and have high energy. We can teach you the skills to work in our restaurants, but you really can't teach these characteristics. By the time you're an adult, you either have them or you don't.
Chipotle's tagline is "food with integrity." What does that mean to you, and why is it important?
It's not really so much a tagline as it is a philosophy. When I opened the first Chipotle, I was proud to serve food that was fresh, because we were proving that prepping and cooking fresh food could be an essential part of a fast-food experience. But I soon came to realize that fresh ingredients just weren't enough anymore. Not only did I need to serve fresh food, I needed to know how it was raised. And it all started with a visit to an industrial pig farm, a typical confined-animal feeding operation that's the sort of operation responsible for most of the pork supply in the U.S. What I saw there was a system of exploitation that made me very uncomfortable, and I knew our customers would be uncomfortable had they seen it, too. Shortly after that visit, we started purchasing all of our pork from Niman Ranch, where pigs are raised out of doors, or in deeply bedded barns, and without the use of antibiotics. Since that initial visit, Chipotle has been on a quest to find more sustainable sources for all of the food we serve. We purchase more meat raised without antibiotics than any other restaurant company, and we're the only national restaurant company with significant commitments to local and organically grown produce, not to mention the only company using dairy products made with milk from cows raised on open pastures and without the use of the synthetic hormone rBGH. More recently, we've been moving away from ingredients that are genetically modified.
Niman Ranch, which was sold to Natural Food Holdings in 2006, has since been labeled a "zombie brand" by a handful of critics. Do you feel as though Niman Ranch's products have been compromised under Natural Food Holdings' management?
I certainly wouldn't call it a "zombie brand." Niman Ranch has become more mainstream and it's grown significantly in scale, but we continue to value what they do and purchase products from them. They realized founder Bill Niman's mission, a mission we have in common, to change the way animals are raised and food is produced in this country. What's so great is that other giant food companies are now doing what Niman, and only a few others, were doing a decade ago. This makes it possible for more and more people to have access to meats raised in a better way.
Considering the immeasurable volume that Chipotle does, how are you able to source from responsible farmers and ranchers that can accommodate such high demand?
It's difficult to do. There is no switch you can throw to serve all organic, natural or local food &mdash at least not with our size. But we've been willing to start small and build up over time. It took us about ten years to get to the point of serving all naturally raised meat, but we thought it was important to do, so we made the commitment and then built a system to enable us to do it over time. We're taking a similar approach with other ingredients, but it takes focus and discipline.
Kansas farmer and rancher Mike Callicrate, who owns Ranch Food Direct, contends that Chipotle refuses to accept livestock treated with antibiotics in cases where antibiotics are necessary to treat illness. "Under Chipotle's 'never-ever-not-to-buy' protocol, animals treated with antibiotics, whether responsibly or for treatment, or irresponsibly, for sub-therapeutic use, must be removed from its program, leaving Chipotle mostly buying meat from animals with false affidavits and/or far cheaper meat from the big industrial packers," insists Callicrate. What's your response?
Let me start by saying that we absolutely believe that sick animals should be treated with antibiotics. But, under our protocols, they'd have to be removed from our program. In the case of Callicrate, our audits found that they weren't adhering to our protocols, so we had to terminate our relationship with them, but it's nonsense to suggest that others aren't meeting those requirements. Antibiotics are a very serious issue in livestock production, and they're significantly overused. In fact, about 80 percent of all antibiotics used in this country are used in the raising of livestock, including in sub-therapeutic ways to stimulate growth and keep animals from getting sick. There's a very real concern that their continued overuse will lead to a proliferation of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs," and that could pose a very serious health threat to humans and animals. Antibiotic use has become a substitute for good animal husbandry. If you raise animals the right way, you really don't need to give them antibiotics.
What's the future like for sustainable farming?
I think the future is bright, although there are many challenges that we're facing right now and will continue to face as we move forward. What's heartening is seeing some of the best minds in this country focusing on food issues, especially in the context of sustainability. The fact that young people are questioning agricultural and environmental practices makes me hopeful about the future.
Considering that McDonald's uses inferior products and you're a big proponent of all-natural, organic and sustainable ingredients, I'm curious as to whether you have any regrets about that now-defunct partnership.
I'm thankful for the seven-year relationship that I had with McDonald's. Their investment in us allowed us to expand our reach in a relatively short time period, but I think we both realized that we had very different and distinct cultures, and that going our separate ways would be better for both of us. They have had no interest in Chipotle since shortly after our IPO, in 2006.
By and large, Chipotle's menu has remained stagnant since its inception. Are there future plans to evolve the menu?
The menu continues to evolve in terms of how we source our raw ingredients. As we continue to buy better products and source more sustainably raised ingredients, our food continues to taste better. This is one reason why people continue to come back again and again. I think that's really the right kind of menu innovation for us.
What's the secret to wrapping a perfect Chipotle burrito?
It really is an art that our crews continue to perfect. They would all tell you that the only way to perfect it is to practice.
When you eat in a Chipotle &mdash assuming you do &mdash do you table-hop to get guest feedback? What's the best feedback you've ever gotten from a guest in terms of advice?
I eat at Chipotle quite often I love it. But when I'm in the restaurants, I tend to spend more time with our managers and crews, if I can. I like to see how things are being done, find out how the crews are doing and what we might be able to do to help them be more efficient. For those of us who aren't working in the restaurants, that's our primary job &mdash to help the restaurants run better. But I do like to hear what customers think about our restaurants, and I definitely get a lot of feedback. I always appreciate that.
Despite the more than 1,450 Chipotle locations around the world, you've never franchised the concept. What's the reasoning behind that decision?
I think restaurants franchise for one of two reasons: one, they need capital to grow, or two, they need operators to run restaurants. We have a very strong economic model, and more than enough capital to fund our growth (which we have funded entirely through income from operations since going public), so we don't need that, and we are able to attract remarkable top performers to run our restaurants. Since we don't really need the things people look to franchisees to provide, I'd rather not give up the control, or the long-term return on investment, by franchising.
While most people would agree that Chipotle rules the world of burritos, you still have plenty of competition. How do you manage to stay relevant and at the top of your game?
All of our restaurants operate in competitive areas, and the nature of competition goes well beyond other burrito places. I'd suggest that we compete with a wide variety of restaurants &mdash pretty much any place you'd spend about the same amount of money to get something to eat. But we don't really focus on that. If we run our restaurants the way we're capable of, we think we can do well anywhere that we're operating.
What would the world be like without Chipotle?
When I opened the first Chipotle, I had the novel idea of showing that food that was fast didn't have to be a typical fast-food experience &mdash and over the years, we've certainly accomplished that goal. We're changing the way people think about and eat fast food, and we're reinventing a category that was really becoming characterized by cheap, heavily processed ingredients and a really unimpressive experience. We've turned that around and are serving great food, made with sustainably raised ingredients and prepared using classic cooking techniques, all in a way that's available and affordable for everyone. I'm not sure that would have happened without Chipotle. It might have, but nobody else is doing these things on the scale that we are.
When are you bringing ShopHouse, your Southeast Asian fast-food concept, to Denver?
We just opened our second ShopHouse in Los Angeles, and we're incredibly proud of the great dining experience that restaurant provides. The crew is terrific, and they're cooking delicious food and showcasing a whole new kind of cuisine to our customers. We think that ShopHouse continues to prove that Chipotle's success isn't just limited to burritos and tacos, but that it also emphasizes our focus on using excellent raw ingredients and cooking them using classic techniques in an open and transparent service format that allows people to customize their dietary and taste preferences. ShopHouse is a beautiful extension of our mission to change the way people think about and eat fast food, but 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.
Speaking of that concept, you were recently sued by British chef Kyle Connaughton, whom you hired &mdash and then fired after he alleged that you ripped off the "intellectual property" of New York chef David Chang, who rose to fame with Momofuku, a concept similar to ShopHouse. Can you comment on his allegations?
It's very unfortunate that Kyle has decided to make these claims against us, as there is no truth to them at all. Kyle is apparently frustrated that we chose not to work with him, and unfortunately, the courts in this country are too often used as an outlet for that kind of frustration. I'm not going to get into all of the details of the case, but I will point out that David Chang has made no such claim himself. We have a lot of respect for what David is doing for food culture, and we hope he feels the same way about us. In the end, we are very confident that the courts will discover the truth about this &mdash specifically, that Kyle's claims are entirely unfounded.
You were also in some hot water a few years ago for employing illegal workers. Clearly, you have thousands upon thousands of employees, so how do you ensure that you're only hiring people allowed to work in the United States?
We're proud to be a company that always tries to do the right thing &mdash and our immigration compliance is no exception. In fact, we've really gone far beyond mere legal compliance with immigration laws, by going above and beyond what it takes to make sure we're diligent in employing only those people who are lawfully entitled to work in this country. In spite of that, we have found ourselves the subject of investigation by the government, and we've fully cooperated with these investigations and are confident that the investigators will eventually come to understand that we are &mdash and always have been &mdash a good corporate citizen. We try to hire only top performers, and our goal is to empower them to be our future leaders. Almost all of our general managers are promoted from internal crew positions, so it clearly doesn't serve us to hire people who aren't entitled to work legally in this country.
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.
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 &mdash 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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Why chains choose breasts over thighs for fried chicken sandwiches
Most chefs agree that chicken thighs are juicier and more flavorful than breasts. Yet American eaters have been led to believe that white meat is healthier, cleaner and more acceptable than dark meat.
When Momofuku’s David Chang first launched his signature fried chicken sandwich at Fuku, his fast-casual brand, the “sando” was founded on his love and passion for thigh-meat spicy fried chicken, said Alex Munoz, CEO of Fuku. “ As we have expanded outside our home market of New York City, our guests have asked for a white meat version, which ultimately inspired us to shift to a new sandwich recipe using chicken breast in 2020,” Munoz added. “In keeping with our roots, we continue to offer the ‘OG’ thigh-meat fried chicken sandwich in NYC, home to many Fuku and Dave Chang loyalists.”
Dark meat used to have another thing going for it—it was cheaper than white meat. “Last year, boneless thighs yielded better margins for operators, but prices have come up as demand increases,” said Will Sawyer, the lead economist in animal protein at CoBank in Atlanta.
Most bone-in thighs and drumsticks are exported, but the boneless thighs remain stateside for foodservice applications and retail packages.
While boneless thighs are not going into chicken sandwiches, major chains including Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panda Express spec dark meat for the menu. And several fast casuals added boneless thighs to the menu last year, with Sweetgreen, Just Salad and Modern Market featuring dark meat in bowls and plates.
But the trouble with using boneless thighs in chicken sandwiches is that they’re inconsistent, said Mike Haracz, senior corporate R&D chef and a former member of McDonald’s culinary team. “Every chicken has two breasts and two thighs, but the breasts yield four filets of equal size,” he said.
Those filets are what’s going into the growing number of fried chicken sandwiches. “Consumers have the perception that white meat offers greater value,” said Haracz, who was instrumental in developing several chicken items at McDonald’s. It also offers value to the operator. At McDonald’s, the trim from the white meat can go into chicken nuggets.
McDonald’s uses the whole bird, and “it’s very hands-on [more labor-intensive] to remove the thigh,” said Haracz. Most chains spec boneless breasts and thighs.
There may be other drawbacks to adding thighs when a chain has traditionally menued breast meat, said Haracz. “Operators have to ask themselves, ‘Do I have the line to run chicken thighs?’ and, ‘Will adding them to the menu cannibalize other chicken items?’ Thighs may take business away from chicken tenders and breast sandwiches, so you won’t necessarily be gaining new customers,” he said.
Right now, jumbo chicken breasts are the best value, said Sawyer. “Production of smaller birds slowed during the pandemic, and when you raise larger birds, most of the weight goes toward the breast. There’s about a 75 cents difference between larger breasts and smaller ones as a result.”
Chicken companies are now ramping up production of smaller birds, but they’ll still be in shorter supply for several months. In the meantime, restaurants may be paying more for both boneless breasts and thighs. But as foodservice demand goes up and more consumers eat out, it should ease chicken prices, said Sawyer.
“Grocery stores took a lot of margin last year in the meat case, but they’ll have to give some of that up this year,” said Sawyer. “I’m predicting the away-from-home market to be up 10 to 12% in 2021.”
Mirin: What it is, and How to Substitute it in Cooking
You may not have heard of mirin, but if you’ve ever eaten Japanese food, the chances are you’ve tried some without knowing it. One of Japanese cuisine’s most important condiments, this sweet rice wine is a key ingredient in teriyaki sauce, and is often used to add flavour to stir-fries and sushi.
Mirin has a similar flavour to sake, but with a lower alcohol content and a light, syrupy texture. Its sweet, tangy flavour makes it the perfect foil for the salty, umami flavours of other popular Asian condiments, like soy sauce or tamari.
There are three types of mirin. The first, and best-quality, is hon mirin, or true mirin, which is around 14% alcohol, and is mixed and fermented for between 40 and 60 days. Shio mirin, or salt mirin, is mirin containing at least 1.5% salt, added to make the wine unpalatable as a drink, thus avoiding alcohol tax. The third type of mirin is shin mirin, or new mirin, which has a similar flavour to hon mirin, but with less than 1% alcohol.
Sadly, mirin can be difficult to find outside of Asia, which can cause problems for Japanese food fans looking to recreate some of their favourite dishes at home. Luckily, there are several similar-tasting ingredients that can be used as a substitute for mirin if you don’t have any to hand.
Dry sherry is used in a similar way to mirin in French and Mediterranean foods, and its subtle sweetness is a reasonable dupe for its Japanese counterpart. It typically contains around 15-17% alcohol, but this will reduce during cooking. Dry sherry can lack some of the sweetness of mirin, with a touch more acidity. You may want to add a pinch of sugar to mitigate this - about half a teaspoon of sugar for every tablespoon of sherry should be enough.
Sweet Marsala wine is another popular European cooking wine. Again, it has a slightly higher alcohol content than mirin, at 15-20%, but the levels of sweetness are a closer match, so there’s no need to add extra sugar.
Dry white wine is easier to come by than sherry or Marsala, and if you don’t use it all in your cooking, you can always enjoy a glass or two with your meal. Although it lacks the sweetness of mirin, its aromatic, tangy flavour makes it a better match than medium or sweet wines. Add half a tablespoon of sugar per tablespoon of wine.
Rice vinegar and mirin are both made from fermented rice, but as might be expected, rice vinegar has a more acidic, sour flavour. Mixing one tablespoon of rice wine vinegar with one teaspoon of sugar makes a pretty good mirin substitute, but it might not be the best choice if the recipe calls for another acidic ingredient.
Sake and sugar or honey is perhaps the closest approximation of mirin. Both are Japanese rice wines, but sake contains more alcohol and less sugar. To increase the sweetness, add one teaspoon of sugar or honey for every tablespoon of sake.
Sake can also be used by itself, if you’re watching your sugar intake. It matches mirin in all other respects, and if your recipe only calls for a little mirin, you shouldn’t miss the sweetness.
Shao Xing cooking wine is the Chinese equivalent of mirin, and can also be used with or without sugar or honey according to taste.
Water can also work if you’re looking for an alcohol-free option. This obviously works more in terms of consistency then flavour, but you can add sugar or honey at one teaspoon per tablespoon of water for added sweetness.
Kombucha has similar acidity levels to mirin, and where it lacks sweetness, you can add sugar or honey to taste. Use plain or ginger flavoured kombucha to best complement Japanese cooking.
If you’re looking for some mirin recipes to experiment with, teriyaki sauce is a great place to start. A true Japanese classic, teriyaki is the perfect balance of sweet mirin with the umami flavour of soy sauce. It goes with poultry, seafood, tofu and vegetables, and can be used as a glaze for meat, or to add flavour to your favourite stir-fry.
These simple but delicious yakitori skewers are another great introduction to Japanese cooking. Made from sliced chicken breast and cheese and coated in a savoury-sweet glaze of poultry stock, soy sauce and mirin, this irresistible appetiser is sure to be a real crowd-pleaser at your next barbecue.
‘Ugly Delicious’ Review: David Chang Challenges Taste Buds and Preconceptions in a Netflix Series Best Savored, Not Binged
David Chang, “Ugly Delicious”
Chef and restaurateur David Chang has a way with words. His Momofuku culinary brand was named after the Japanese words for &ldquolucky peach&rdquo with a nod to ramen inventor Momofuku Ando. But Chang has also acknowledged that it&rsquos no accident that Momofuku sounds very similar to &ldquomotherfucker.&rdquo
Contained in that auspicious, delicious, and mischievous moniker are clues of what to expect in his Netflix food series with its own colorful name, &ldquoUgly Delicious.&rdquo While each of the eight episodes focuses on one specific comfort food such as pizza or fried chicken, the series examines far more than just plating and recipes. The spotlight dish also serves as a tasty vehicle by which to examine historical and social issues, and hopefully build bridges across politics and continents.
Through the episode &ldquoPizza,&rdquo the show dives into the concept of authenticity and whether that quality makes certain foods inherently better. A trip to Naples compares their strict guidelines for a true Neapolitan pizza to the pies it inspired in New York. Also, in what will no doubt be a controversial segment, the celebrated restaurateur &mdash who has received multiple James Beard Awards and whose establishments have landed on Best Restaurants lists worldwide &mdash admits that he likes Domino&rsquos Pizza. And then he proceeds to go into a Domino&rsquos kitchen and even make a few pizza deliveries.
&ldquoI view authenticity like a totalitarian state. It&rsquos something that I think has been overvalued, but in reality it hasn&rsquot been scrutinized enough,&rdquo says Chang. &ldquoIt&rsquos not that I hate authenticity, it&rsquos that I hate that people want this singular thing that&rsquos authentic.&rdquo
Similarly, the episode &ldquoTacos&rdquo gives rise to questions about appropriation, &ldquoShrimp and Crawfish&rdquo dives into fusion and identity, while &ldquoFried Chicken,&rdquo &ldquoFried Rice,&rdquo and &ldquoStuffed&rdquo examine how slavery and racism color how people view certain foods today.
Fortunately, Chang has Oscar-winning documentarian Morgan Neville (&ldquo20 Feet From Stardom&rdquo) as his secret ingredient to achieve this ballsy and ambitious endeavor. Neville&rsquos multidisciplinary approach to storytelling matches Chang&rsquos break-all-the-rules mentality. Each episode careens through a number of different styles, including talking heads, cinéma vérité, drunken conversations shot on a phone, illustrations, animation, sitcom spoofs, and even a mock political debate, in which the opposing parties argue over which culture&rsquos dumplings reign supreme. The flexible approach makes for a kinetic, humorous, and entertaining viewing experience.
Each episode is as dense as a Momofuku Milkbar compost cookie with elements ranging from the typical roundtable discussions and travelogue hallmarks to advice on how to pick a proper Chinese restaurant and more scripted bits. This is where Neville&rsquos deceptively meandering storytelling style helps to alleviate some of the information overload, creating a looser and lighter tone. But a word of warning: Because of the crowded nature of each episode &mdash which run between 45 minutes to an hour apiece &mdash each installment is best savored solo, not to be binged, even if that is the Netflix way.
Adding extra spice to the conversation are foodie celebrity pals that include &ldquoMaster of None&rsquos&rdquo Alan Yang and Aziz Ansari, comedian Ali Wong, &ldquoThe Walking Dead&rsquos&rdquo Steven Yeun, &ldquoLove&rdquo star Gillian Jacobs, “Big Mouth’s” Nick Kroll, and Jimmy Kimmel. Their layman’s take on food and culture is a welcome entry point into certain topics, such as when Wong refers to the gelatinous soup cube that makes Din Tai Fung&rsquos famous xiao long bao soup dumplings possible as “jelly jizz” to the owner of the restaurant chain.
Viewers who are more culinarily fluent will be happy to see familiar heavyweights from the world of gastronomy as well. Noma&rsquos Rene Redzepi is a strong presence throughout the series, as are food writers Ruth Reichl and Peter Meehan, Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic Jonathan Gold, and Kogi BBQ truck creator Roy Choi, among dozens of others.
Netflix has already seen success with its food series ranging from the gorgeously shot &ldquoChef&rsquos Table&rdquo to the everyman charms of &ldquoSomebody Feed Phil.&rdquo Despite their different approaches, they have the common goal of opening up the world to viewers through the shared experience of food.
&ldquoUgly Delicious&rdquo takes that agenda to greater heights, and the meaning of the title exemplifies an idea that Chang has become more enamored with over the years. Fine dining is all well and good, but the dishes that people remember, the ones that create that &ldquoRatatouille&rdquo moment, are often the &ldquouglier&rdquo comfort foods that people grew up eating. For some, it is chicken and dumplings or meatloaf. For Chang, it&rsquos kimchee fried rice with Spam.
As someone who became a culinary rockstar in his mid-20s after launching Momofuku, Chang knows a thing or two about reading the temperature of the cultural climate. While &ldquoUgly Delicious&rdquo explores today&rsquos ills and challenges preconceptions, the idea of using &ldquougly delicious&rdquo-style foods could point the way forward to creating real meaningful understanding, and through that, change. In the very least, it provides plenty of food for thought.
All eight episodes of &rdquoUgly Delicious&rdquo are currently streaming on Netflix.
This Article is related to: Television and tagged Netflix, TV Reviews, Ugly Delicious
“We believe that in hiring workers beginning at age 16, we can provide younger employees with valuable experiences and provide a compelling work environment,” Ms. Schalow said.
Over the years, Chipotle has been heralded for its “food with integrity” mantra and its paid sick-leave policy. Like many restaurants, however, the company has struggled with turnover. In a bid to keep employees at the chain longer, Chipotle pledged in October to cover upfront the tuition costs of certain business and technology degrees for employees who have worked at the company for at least 120 days.
Chipotle has also come under fire for how it treats employees. In September, New York City sued the chain under the Fair Workweek Law, alleging that staff members were forced to work unpredictable schedules. The Massachusetts investigation began after a parent complained that a child had worked past midnight at one Chipotle restaurant in Beverly, Mass.
The Massachusetts attorney general, Maura Healey, noted in a news release that Chipotle employed thousands of young people across the country.
“It has a duty to ensure minors are safe working in its restaurants,” she said on Monday. “We hope these citations send a message to other fast food chains and restaurants that they cannot violate our child labor laws and put young people at risk.”
The tight labor market has led to staffing shortages across a variety of industries, including farming and construction. A few factors specific to the restaurant industry have made the problem especially acute for fast-food chains: The number of teenagers in the work force has steadily declined, and Wall Street investment has led to a glut of restaurant openings, oversaturating the market.
Still, the current worker shortage is not the first time that restaurant operators have violated labor rules.
“In good times or bad times, it’s always easier to get a little bit more on the backs of the employees,” said Brian Heller, an employment lawyer in New York. “When you have a business that’s based on employees doing low-level work, it can be easy to ignore the laws that are there to protect people.”
6 ways you're messing up your Chipotle order
The cilantro rice, the flavorful meats, the guacamole… my stomach starts grumbling just thinking about it for more than three seconds. I always thought a Chipotle burrito was a heck of a good deal considering how much food they stuff in there, until I discovered I have been ordering my Chipotle fix completely wrong. That's right — there are ways you are messing up your Chipotle order without even realizing it.
I know, I know. My head was reeling when I found out, too. Just when you think you've got your favorite Chipotle order down to a science, a whole new bevy of burrito possibilities presents itself. Secret menu items, freebies, and other hacks are all here to change your life, and if you aren't using them to their full potential each and every time you order Chipotle? Well then you, my friend, are doing it wrong. From requesting a double-wrapped burrito (more tortilla for free? Yes please!) to requesting extra fillings (because more is always better), these Chipotle menu tips are going to make you an expert Chipotle eater.
Next time you walk into Chipotle, you are going to walk in there like a boss and dominate that burrito. Here are six ordering mistakes you're currently making, and how to fix them.
1. You aren't asking for extra everything
If you aren’t already asking for extra of everything you put in your burrito (except for meat and guacamole that come with an additional charge), you are doing something seriously wrong. Your burrito or burrito bowl is not living up to its full potential unless you are ordering more of the things you love. for free. Want extra beans? Craving both pinto and black beans at the same time? Extra rice? It’s all free — so go ahead and order with reckless abandon. Want more veggies in your meal? Ask them to throw in some fajita vegetables after getting your beans and rice. As long as you’re ordering a protein, those vegetables are F-R-E-E. Then, proceed to load up on all the salsas your heart desires, because a boss like you doesn’t skimp on the good stuff.
2. You aren't asking for a second protein
Why limit yourself to only one protein, when you can get two for the same price? Most people who run through the line at Chipotle have no idea they could be ordering two types of protein at once for no extra charge. Next time they ask you if you want chicken or beef, you tell them you want half of both. I guarantee you’ll get a smile and nod of approval. That’s right, this is how you order meat at Chipotle.
3. You're not up to speed on Chipotle's secret menu items
My mind almost exploded when I first heard about Chipotle secret menu items such as the quesarito. (The quesarito is a heavenly quesadilla and burrito hybrid, where a giant burrito is literally wrapped in a quesadilla.) Are you running out the door to Chipotle already? I have one foot out the door right now just thinking about it.
Or, if that seems a little intense, go for the burritodilla, which is burrito filling sandwiched between heaping piles of cheese, and grilled to gooey perfection. You have to order each of these at least once in your life. It’s another excuse to stuff gooey cheese in your mouth. How can you not try it?
4. You're ignoring fresh ingredients
Fresh ingredients are what Chipotle prides itself on, and you should take full advantage of this. Throw in some fresh cilantro or jalapeno the next time you order your burrito, bowl, or tacos. It’s completely free, and will liven up your meal with fresh flavor.
5. You're not double-wrapping your burrito
Since you’re taking advantage of all the extras and freebies offered at Chipotle, you’ll probably need the double-wrap without even asking for it. If your burrito isn’t bursting at the seams, simply ask for them to double-wrap your burrito, and you’ll get another warm tortilla thrown in for no additional charge. Denying this perfectly warmed tortilla would be a crime. Not only would you miss out on the opportunity to fill your belly, you risk the possibility of the dreaded torn burrito. No one wants the contents of their burrito dripping down their shirts and staining their pants. Not the way to be a boss.
6. You're not ordering a burrito bowl
The ultimate way to work the system at Chipotle is to order a bowl instead of a burrito or tacos. You may be grumbling about not having a tortilla, but here is where the genius comes in. When you order a bowl, you generally get more of everything since they aren’t trying to smash it all into a tortilla. The tortilla and taco shells provide limited space to work with. So, order the bowl to get larger portions, ask for all the extras, and finally, ask for a tortilla or taco shell on the side (yes, it’s completely free). Build your own perfect burrito or taco, and revel in gaming the system so well.
Chipotle Paste Comes in a Tube and Now You Can Finally Be Free
I love the smoky, tangy taste of chipotles in adobo, but I hate the inconvenience of opening a can only to use one or two chiles or a little bit of sauce. Each time I give in, I end up stashing the can in the way-back of my fridge, sure to be found 23 years later when I'm packing up for my government-mandated relocation to Earth II.
I thought Iɽ found a solution when I came upon the idea of puréeing the entire contents of a can upon opening it and spooning the purée into a resealable glass jar, so I could administer smoky heat whenever necessary. But now, I've found something even better: chipotle paste in a tube!
Umami-Boosting Secrets From 5 Great Vegetarian Cooks
I've long been a fan of tomato paste in a tube, anchovy paste in a tube, and harissa in a tube, but Iɽ never seen chipotle chiles packaged this way until recently. And I am pumped.
When you squeeze chipotle paste from a tube, it means you don't need to fish whole chipotles out of the can and chop them while you're wearing protective gloves (and feeling guilty if those protective gloves are single-use only). And you don't have to chop them while not wearing protective gloves, feeling the sting of residual chile oil on your fingers while you figure out what to do with the rest of the can.
With chipotle in a tube, you don't need to file half a jar into a Stasher bag to freeze until you eventually forget where it is and open another can.
There's more good news: The tube preserves that chipotle magic better than the glass jar hack, since exposing the chiles to oxygen (which happens more quickly through the wide opening of a can or jar) can dry them out and degrade their flavor. Tubed chiles last longer there's no rush to use them up.
Even if you don't need to, you probably will use the tubed paste up more quickly. Adding a little bit to a dish comes more naturally when there's no commitment. And more importantly, the tubed stuff just tastes better. When I did a side-by-side comparison of puréed jarred chipotles in adobo beside tubed chipotle paste by mixing equal amounts of each into Greek yogurt, the paste in a tube won hands down.
Photo by Caleb Adams, Food Styling by Anna Billingskog
The flavor of the yogurt mixed with tubed chipotle paste was brighter, with more nuanced chile flavor and a smoky backbone. The jarred chipotle sauce wasn't bad, but the flavor was comparatively dull. There was a big difference in color, too: The tubed paste produced a pleasant pastel-coral sauce the jarred sauce, on the other hand, was an unappealing khaki-gray.
One metric where the jarred chiles did have the upper hand was spice. If BIG CHILE HEAT is your primary concern, you'll need to use an extra squirt of the paste to satisfy your craving for fire. It's also worth noting that the tubed paste doesn't have the vinegar kick of canned chipotles in adobo, since—at least in the brand that I've been using—that adobo sauce isn't included in the paste. It's just the chiles in there, along with some water, salt, and citric acid. But that's nothing a squeeze of fresh citrus or a splash of vinegar can't fix. And something I'll gladly trade off for the well-rounded chile flavor and simple storage that a tube of chipotle paste provides.