A Chipotle in Chelsea has a secret named Nate Appleton. Departing from a career that kept him in acclaimed San Francisco restaurants A16 and SPQR, Appleton has made a move that has befuddled some of best in his field. As recipient of the James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef award among much other recognition, like Best New Chef from Food & Wine and appearances on the Food Network, the choice to become a line cook at this urban, lunchtime food chain may not sound like a wise career move to some, but to Nate it is anything but.
Chipotle is one of the only chains, if not the only, with a launched mission to use only sustainably raised meats, local and organic produce, and hormone free dairy. This mission, called Food with Integrity, is worth recognition, and some may argue, so is Appleton’s decision. Read his interview on Serious Eats and find out why he took this leap of faith.
An editor’s note: When doing research for this post, I learned McDonald’s used to own the majority of Chipotle, until 2006 when they released these assets. One part of me is curious that talks of moves to sustainable agriculture akin to the Chipotle ethos made those at McD’s tremble at the thought of lost profits, or perhaps it had to do with potentially jeopardizing relations with their industrial producers of pennies-on-the dollar poultry and beef by also supporting local and sustainable practices. Either way, it’s a shame that Ronald & Friends couldn’t see the value of a more progressive outlook, or even how a more sustainable food system could inadvertently help make profits (maybe by clientele living longer lives and purchasing food over long term?). Though Chipotle was not the only other company that was divested at the same time, the politics behind fast food chains, and McDonald’s in particular, are as intriguing as they are tied to a system so much larger.