Ed's Reads: Failed Chang-Chipotle Ramen Collaboration Goes To Court


Not Chipotle ramen. [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

What's our founder and benevolent overlord reading today?

According to the New York Post, Kyle Connaughton, a British chef hired by Chipotle founder Steve Ells to develop a ramen concept purportedly hatched by Ells and Momofuku founder David Chang, is now suing Ells to preserve his professional reputation. Turns out the chef doesn't want to get in the middle of a nasty culinary intellectual property battle that came out of an initial collaboration between Chang and Ells on a franchise-ready ramen concept. Got that? Here's the little bit of the backstory, though I'd love to know if any Serious Eaters knows more.

If my memory serves me well (no sure thing at this point), a few years ago Chang and Ells developed a mutual admiration society. Ells loved Chang's food, and Chang had a great deal of respect for the way Ells developed his brand and business. I remember reading about them working on a ramen concept together years ago. According to today's NY Post article, their collaboration resulted in the 2011 opening of Shophouse, the first of what was supposed to be many ramen-Southeast Asian restaurants. According to Connaughton's lawsuit, Ells cut Chang out of the deal and then fired Connaughton when he confronted Ells about the dissolution of his relationship with Chang.

I'm sure there is more to this story that will come out when the lawsuit or lawsuits proceed through the legal system. For now, as a serious eater and a huge fan of Chang's food and Ells' vision and principles, I am merely saddened by the fact that the Chang-Ells collaboration has apparently ended so badly. It'll be interesting to see what happens next—what do you think?