New York City-based David Chang isn't afraid to stir the pot, and this morning he set his sights on Chipotle. It's no secret that Chipotle is currently living through one of the worst restaurant-related public health crises of the past decade. Hundreds have fallen ill after eating a meal at Chipotle locations in 13 states. Customers are taking their money elsewhere and Chipotle's stock price has fallen. So why did Chang take time out of his busy schedule to hate on Chipotle on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram?
The answer likely stems from a blind item from 2012, and a lawsuit filed in 2013. Back in 2012 Chang told Adweek, "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." Chang never confirmed it, but this comment pointed almost directly at Chipotle and its then nascent ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen concept. Neither Chipotle nor Chang commented at the time.
Further proof that Chang was talking about Chipotle in 2012 lies in a lawsuit filed in 2013. That year, ex-Fat Duck chef and former Chipotle employee Kyle Connaughton sued Chipotle CEO Steve Ells "concerning secrets, ramen shops, and David Chang." That suit alleged Connaughton was lied to by Ells "concerning some consulting David Chang and Momofuku had done on a Chipotle-style ramen chain." Apparently Chang pulled out of this alleged consulting gig in 2008, which is when Connaughton was hired to "execute a new restaurant concept... called Ramen Yokocho." When Connaughton found out about Chang's prior involvement, he was fired.
The lawsuit was eventually dismissed, but it contains some of the most damning evidence of the link between Chipotle's ShopHouse Asian Kitchen concept and David Chang. Connaughton laid out the issues at hand, specifically the information that Chang had been a consultant on the project prior to his employment with the company, all in an effort to collect damages the judge eventually ruled were "speculative." Connaughton never got his pay day, but he did out Chang's involvement with Chipotle and Steve Ells.
That brings us to today, when Chang expressed his deepest, most heart-felt sympathy for Chipotle in this, their time of need.
Here's the Facebook post, now deleted:
And the tweet, also now deleted:
Chang's Instagram post is still live. The image is of a Chipotle gift card and the text reads, "The best Christmas present for people you kinda of love but also kinda hate." Why would Chang have deleted his cheeky tweet and Facebook post? Perhaps because this sort of health scare could happen to any food company, no matter how lofty, no matter how brash. Momofuku hasn't gotten anyone sick in a major way or been shut down by the DOH, but see also: Noma and Mission Chinese Food. Plus, Chang should probably keep his schadenfreude to himself. Karma indeed.