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Nate Appleman, former kitchen tinkerer for Chipotle, gets a new job

He was named COO of Umami Burger. At the same time, parent SBE named John Polizzi VP of ops for Umami’s division, Disruptive Restaurant Group.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Nate Appleman, the chef who developed additions to Chipotle Mexican Grill’s bare-bones menu during early stages of the brand’s turnaround effort, has joined the Umami Burger fast-casual chain as chief operating officer. 

Among his duties will be facilitating Umami’s expansion into lodging properties operated by Accor, the global hospitality company that purchased 50% of the burger chain’s parent company, SBE, in late 2018. The participants have vowed to open 100 of the burger restaurants in Accor holdings within seven years. 

Simultaneously, SBE said it has hired John Polizzi, a veteran of fine and upscale dining, to serve as VP of operations for Disruptive Restaurant Group (DRG), the division that includes Umami. DRG’s dozen or so restaurant brands include K Ramen. Burger. Beer., Tres and Double Barrel Roadhouse. 

Appleman joins Umami from OTG Management, a travel center concessionaire, where he worked as VP of culinary. He spent the seven years beforehand with Chipotle, using a unit in a Manhattan neighborhood to experiment with items such as queso and tofu. He collaborated heavily with Chipotle founder and then-CEO Steve Ells. Both Ells and Appleman graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. 

Before working in menu development for Chipotle, Appleman was a chef for New York City restaurants such as Keith McNally’s Pulino’s Bar and Pizzeria. 

Polizzi was previously VP of operations for Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer. Earlier, he worked for a number of high-end, high-volume operations, including Tao, China Club Management and Stephen Starr’s Philadelphia-based restaurant collection. 

SBE is a diversified hotel and restaurant operator whose holdings include Morgans, the boutique hotel group founded by former Studio 54 impresario Ian Schrager, and Hyde Hotel & Residences. 

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