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Chipotle turns over burger concept to Richard Blais

Chipotle Mexican Grill said it was turning over leadership of its Tasty Made retro burger concept to celebrity chef and entrepreneur Richard Blais.

Chipotle called the arrangement a “partnership,” but did not divulge terms of the relationship.

The partners indicated that Blais’ first order of business will be to review Tasty Made’s four-item menu with an eye toward expanding the options. Right now the choices are limited to burgers, fries, shakes and sodas.

Only one Tasty Made is currently open, in Lancaster, Ohio. Chipotle has indicated that it intends to duplicate the year-old concept, but backed off from opening a second store elsewhere in Ohio because of challenges posed by the company’s namesake brand.

Chipotle CEO Steve Ells said he will have more time to focus on the 2,300-unit Chipotle chain because of Blais’ involvement with Tasty Made.

For Blais, the relationship provides him with another high-profile restaurant to steward. He is also the creator and operator of Crack Shack, a bare-bones fast-casual chicken concept that has become a cult favorite.

He rose to prominence in fine dining with the celebrated Juniper & Ivy.

Blais is the latest in a parade of celebrity chefs to enter the so-called better-burger segment, though he has circled that turf with a concept called Flip Burger. Although the Flip menu consists of burgers, they are far from the sort served at Tasty Made. The selections include one made with butterfish, another with a "shrimp patty."  The concept is marketed as a "burger boutique."

Most of the diversions by fellow big-name chefs have been more mainstream. Bobby Flay has a concept called Bobby’s Burger Palace, and David Grossman joined partners David Morton and Michael Kornick in announcing this week that they intend to franchise their collaboration, DMK Burger Bar. Marcus Samuelsson's venture is called Marc Burger. 


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