Lawsuit Alleges Chipotle’s Steve Ells Tried to Steal Momofuku’s Ideas

Did Ells (right) try to rip off Dave Chang's ramen concept?
Did Ells (right) try to rip off Dave Chang's ramen concept? Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images; Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

A British chef who trained at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in Bray and did culinary R&D; work for fast-casual giant Chipotle has filed a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court alleging that former boss Steve Ells damaged his professional reputation after short-changing Momofuku chef and owner David Chang. The New York Post reports that the Chipotle CEO approached Kyle Connaughton in 2011 to develop a “ramen-house equivalent to Chipotle” without disclosing the nature of his previous interactions with the Momofuku restaurateur.

After an alleged disagreement over money, Ells reportedly “cut Chang out of the deal” and subsequently opened the Asian fusion concept ShopHouse. Connaughton says he was fired after confronting Ells over the ethics of pilfering another chef’s intellectual property and is now suing the executive for “unspecified monetary damages.” A representative of Momofuku indicated that the restaurant group is not a party to the lawsuit. “We hope the parties work out their differences,” the rep tells Grub Street.

Claim Momofuku’s Chang was ripped off [NYP]