Thursday, March 31, 2011

Steve Ells Annoys Me

One of the underappreciated and underutilized aspects of food blogging is to say what you think about the food world in general.  We sometimes get so caught up in sharing recipes and playing photographer that we forget what kind of power we have, the power of the consumer.  So why don’t we use it more often?  Look at Anthony Bourdain; the man made his career by talking smack about a lot of people, restaurants, and practices that are totally true, just no one ever thought to point the finger and say it.

I'm trying to change.  I'm trying to bring more variety to my blog by writing about beer, restaurants, and whatever it is that crosses my mind. Which brings me to my point, Steve Ells, the founder of Chipotle, annoys me.  He's a prick, to put it lightly.  I've been watching "America's Next Great Restaurant", which, like all reality shows, it not actually about reality but about a manufactured environment the execs at NBC like to fill with voice-overs and really crappy people who either happen to look good or fit the diversity profile.  I will be honest, I already know that only 2-3 of these people actually have a shot.  The rest are fodder.

Steve Ells is the "investor" on the show along with a few other culinary people.  However, unlike them, Steve just likes to talk about himself and how awesome Chipotle is.  This last week required the contestants to run the lunch counter at one of his precious restaurants.  Now, ask yourself, what in the heck this has to do with opening your own restaurant?  Most of these people simply have an idea and really don't know a knife from an onion.  But sure, let's put them in a fast-food casual restaurant and have them make a bunch of burritos all the while showing cuts to Mr. Steve while he passes a kidney stone in frustration.  Of course they are going to fail!  But what gets me is Mr. pretentious himself, who says things like "shouldn’t mix the salsa with the sour cream" and "we don't yell at Chipotle" and "why aren't they smiling."  Has he ever BEEN in a Chipotle?  They are miserable, hyperactive places.  No one smiles.  Their goal is to get person A out the door as fast as humanly possible.  No smiles, lots of running, lots of slopping, and a lot of yelling.  So please, don't criticize the staff because they are acting just like the minimum wage people you pay right now.

Next point, get over yourself and your restaurant.  Sure, Chipotle is successful and that's a good job done by you, but do NOT try and convince me you're the Rick Bayless of burritos.  You put steak, rice, canned beans, and some cheese and salsa in a tortilla.  That's it.  And honestly, it's not that good.  I know that sounds like a cheap shot, but there are a lot better places for me to go get a burrito in Indiana (Qdoba just for starters) where I don't have to think about what a jerk their CEO/founder is.

So what does this mean to you, oh reader and consumer?  Probably nothing, maybe everything.  It's information, and you can do with it what you like.  But to me, the guy is basically airing an hour-long commercial on himself and seeing how many times he can say "fresh integrity" in 60 minutes.  And that annoys me, a lot.

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