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Chipotle's Steve Ells Sued Over Stolen Momofuku Concept

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Photos: @kyleconnaughton, Chipotle

Chef Kyle Connaughton is suing Chipotle CEO Steve Ells over an alleged scheme to rip off concepts from David Chang's Momofuku empire, reports the New York Post. (As of posting, Eater has not seen the court documents.) Connaughton was hired by Chipotle to help develop their Asian noodle concept ShopHouse, and according to the Post, decided to launch the suit after hearing a Chipotle marketing director admit, "Momofuku will sue Chipotle when the ramen concept opens but that Mr. Ells made a decision to proceed anyway." And Connaughton apparently wants nothing to do with that.

Update: Here's the Chipotle Ramen Concept Lawsuit, in Full

Rumors have circled Chipotle and Chang for at least a year, after Chang gave an interview in AdWeek in which he said, "There is a very successful fast-food company that approached us and quite frankly took our intellectual property. And they are running our concept right now. They have two stores that have opened up." According to the Post, court documents claim Chipotle had an NDA with Chang, but took his ideas and didn't pay him. Connaughton claims he was fired after he protested the situation, and wants to be compensated an unspecified amount of money.

A spokesperson for Momofuku tells Eater, "Momofuku is not a party to the law suit and has no comment. We hope the parties work out their differences." No comment was made on Chang's former involvement with Chipotle, or the alleged intellectual property violations. A spokesperson for Chipotle told Eater, "As a matter of policy, we don't comment on pending legal action."

It should be noted that ShopHouse is not explicitly a ramen shop; it's officially a "Southeast Asian Kitchen" and the website specifically cites Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Hanoi as inspirations. It is unclear if the rumored ramen would be a menu addition to ShopHouse or a completely new restaurant concept.

Prior to working for Chipotle, Connaughton was head of development for Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck restaurant in Bray, England.

Meanwhile, a fifth Shophouse is coming to the DC area.

Update: Here's the Chipotle Ramen Concept Lawsuit, in Full

· Claim Momofuku's Chang Was Ripped Off [NYP]
· All Chipotle Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Momofuku Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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