For the past two and a half years, Nate Appleman has been Chipotle's culinary manager, working on recipe developing for the burrito chain and its new Asian eatery ShopHouse, sourcing ingredients, and streamlining kitchen and restaurant operations. After his chef demo at the San Francisco Chipotle Cultivate Food Festival we discussed his nontraditional workdays at Chipotle, the challenges of using fresh ingredients, and the importance of thinking beyond the food being served.
POPSUGAR: What does your typical day look like?
Nate Appleman: My day changes every day. I work a lot on developing ShopHouse and seeing it to market. I'm personally involved in hiring the crew, the managers, looking at the food cost numbers, and developing the menu. I spend a lot of time on that. But I spend a lot of time on Chipotle. It's constantly changing, because we use real ingredients, and real ingredients change. It's not like other restaurants or companies that have a formula. We don't cook by formula; we cook by ingredients. We're constantly evaluating tomatoes, seeing how they change, and if there is a problem, fixing it.
PS: What's your favorite aspect of your job?
NA: There is no monotony to it. I never know what the day will bring, because it changes all the time. I love that. In a restaurant, when you become a chef, you stand on the line and expedite tickets every single day. I don't like that and don't want to do that. I want something new, exciting, and fresh. I want to be cooking, creating, and doing. I get that opportunity.
PS: What unusual challenges have come up?
NA: The big challenge with Chipotle and ShopHouse is we're a big company. We have really strong beliefs about the ingredients that we're using and the accessibility and availability of those ingredients is hard. For a small, independent restaurant it's easy. You go to the farmers market, you pick up the food, and you're using great stuff. Well, we try to do that on a large scale. We have almost 1,500 restaurants.