British chef and reality TV star Kyle Connaughton is suing Chipotle owner Steve Ells over a botched deal to develop a restaurant that David Chang also allegedly worked on. The Post reports that Connaughton was hired to develop a "ramen-house equivalent to Chipotle" near Union Square. After signing on, the chef says that he found out that Ells was using ideas that Chang allegedly developed for the restaurant that would eventually become Chipotle-spinoff ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen. Worrying that "his professional reputation would be ruined" for using the old ideas, Connaughton confronted Ells about this previous relationship and, according to court papers, Connaughton was then fired. The chef is now seeking "unspecified monetary damages."
In the court papers, Connaughton notes: "Mr. Chang and Mr. Ells could not agree upon financial terms for the implementation of the ramen concept...Mr. Chang refused to do so." The Post is reporting that Ells cut Chang out of the deal, and that they signed a nondisclosure agreement after the split. Chang has never explicitly said that he worked with Ells on a new restaurant, but in an interview with Ad Week last year, the chef remarked:
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.The first two locations of ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen opened in D.C. recently (Nate Appleman is involved), and Ells is planning to open locations in Los Angeles later this year. Presumably, Ells also wants to bring the concept to New York soon, although Connaughton heard that "Momofuku will sue Chipotle when the ramen concept opens."
A spokesperson for Momofuku tells Eater National: "Momofuku is not a party to the law suit and has no comment. We hope the parties work out their differences." And a spokesperson for Chipotle tells Eater: "As a matter of policy, we don't comment on pending legal action."
· Claim Momofuku's Chang Was Ripped Off [NYP]
· All Coverage of David Chang [~ENY~]