Early Sunday morning, a wildfire (codenamed Glass) started burning near St. Helena. The California leadership team and senior leaders in Hyde Park including President Ryan monitored conditions throughout the day and prepared for a possible evacuation of campus. Late last night, we evacuated 119 students from the residence halls. Most students were able to connect with family or friends for overnight accommodations; 18 students were provided lodging arranged by the CIA through the county. The California team was in continuous contact with CIA leadership throughout, and due to their efforts, the evacuation went smoothly with all students safe and accounted for. Students remained calm and in good spirits despite the situation. They have been real troopers.

While the fire came too close for comfort, Greystone and our residence halls on campus and on Pratt Avenue were untouched.

Currently the Greystone campus is without power as damage is assessed and fires continue to be active in the area. All members of the campus community have been asked to work remotely. We are using The CIA at Copia as a base camp for our operations, and many students will be spending time there today. We will continue to update students, faculty, and staff, by e-mail as needed. Parents, please urge your student to share these notifications, so you have the latest information.

Steve Ells, CIA culinary arts alumni, is founder of Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Alumni Bio: Steve Ells ’90

Culinary Arts
Founder and Executive Chairman of Chipotle Mexican Grill and Pizzeria Locale
“My time at the CIA provided a great foundation and taught me many lessons that are still valuable today.”

Founder and Executive Chairman of Chipotle Mexican Grill and Pizzeria Locale, CIA alumnus Steve Ells '90 has unlocked the secret to a successful and sustainable business model with his “Food with Integrity” initiative. “We decided long ago that we didn’t want our success to be tied to the exploitation of animals, farmers, or the environment, but the engagement of our customers,” he says. From humanely raised beef to hormone-free sour cream, Steve incorporates high-quality ingredients into his menu because, as he says, “they ultimately result in better-tasting food.” The transformation to a more ethical menu occurred gradually as business grew. The effect is not only more flavorful food, but greater customer loyalty and increased sales.

In 1990, Steve received his degree from the CIA. While he served as sous chef under Jeremiah Tower at Stars restaurant in San Francisco, he was inspired by eating at the local taquerias. Steve returned home to Denver in hopes of opening a similarly themed establishment that would help fund his ultimate dream of owning a “real” restaurant. So, armed with a loan from his father, he launched his very first burrito restaurant.

Now with 2,526 restaurants, including 23 Chipotle restaurants outside the U.S., and two Pizzeria Locale restaurants, Ells sees an opportunity to open doors for CIA students by creating a scholarship for those who share his philosophy for sustainability. The Chipotle Mexican Grill Annual Scholarship will award $2,500 to an emerging culinary professional demonstrating support for sustainable agricultural practices consistent with Chipotle’s philosophy.

“My time at The Culinary Institute of America provided a great foundation and taught me many lessons that are still valuable today,” Steve explains. “In many ways I was lucky, not everyone has the resources or support they need to help realize their dreams.” In addition to running his growing culinary empire Steve sits on the board of directors of the Land Institute, a non-profit research, education, and policy organization.

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