STEVE ELLIS IS ON A MISSION. He's determined to feed you vegetarian-fed, antibiotic-free chicken, real lime juice, organic pinto beans, unprocessed pork, and other sustainable and whole foods. And he wants those ingredients to be as all-natural as possible. If you're picturing a back-alley boho café in Berkeley, try again. Ells is the visionary behind, and CEO of, Chipotle Mexican Grill, arguably the first fast-food franchise to make fresh and natural a priority and still turn a profit. Inspired by taquerias he frequented in San Francisco's Mission District while a chef at the famed restaurant Stars, Ellswho graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, New Yorkcreated Chipotle's business model around the idea of wrapping nutritious meals in a tortilla and selling them cheap and quick. (A typical burrito is ready in less than one minute and sets you back about $6.) His original 20-seat shop, on East Evans Avenue, in Denver, has mushroomed into an 11,000-person, $480 million company with more than 400 restaurants in 22 statesand two new ones opening each week. Chipotle's has been so successful, in fact, that it was purchased by McDonald's seven years ago. While some might think that's dealing with the devil when it comes to fresh fare, Ells assures that it isn't. "Not once has McDonald's asked us to buy cheaper ingredients," says Ells. "As long as we're successful, we'll have full autonomy."
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