Fast food visionary Steve Ells has been named the recipient of the 2013 Cornell Hospitality Innovator Award, an honor given annually by the Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration (SHA). Ells, founder, chairman, and co-CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill, will receive the award at the fifth annual Cornell Hospitality Icon & Innovator Awards, Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City.

"True innovation is not about simply creating a better version of what has already been done; it is about creating an entirely new way of thinking. Through Chipotle, Steve Ells has redefined the way the world thinks about fast food, and we look forward to recognizing his extraordinary contributions to the industry at the Cornell Hospitality Icon & Innovator Awards in June," said Michael D. Johnson, dean and E. M. Statler Professor at the SHA.

Ells opened the first Chipotle in Denver in 1993 with the idea that food served fast did not have to be a typical fast food experience. Today, he and Chipotle are changing the way people think about and eat fast food. With a commitment to using ingredients from more sustainable sources, Ells and Chipotle are leading a revolution to make great food affordable and accessible so everyone can eat better.

Ells, a classically trained chef, has received considerable praise for his vision and leadership at Chipotle. The New York Times proclaimed that Chipotle provides "a chance to witness—and taste—a shift in American fast food," and Newsweek, called him "an environmental champion" for his commitment to supporting sustainable agriculture. Chipotle's business success has prompted accolades from such sources as, which named Chipotle one of the world's top-20 sustainable stocks; the Motley Fool, which called it the "most socially responsible company;" and Jim Cramer, host of CNBC's "Mad Money," who has said that Chipotle has the "best management team in the hospitality industry."

At the awards gala in June, Cornell will also honor Tom Pritzker, executive chairman of Hyatt Hotels Corporation and chairman of Marmon Group, Inc., with the Cornell Icon of the Industry Award. Since its inception in 2009, the Cornell Hospitality Icon & Innovator Awards has grown to be the largest event on the SHA calendar, attracting more than 900 of the most influential leaders and innovators in the hospitality and travel industry from 17 countries. The event raises funds to support SHA's scholarships and programs.

The 2013 awards ceremony already has more than 50 corporate sponsors. The title sponsor is Hyatt Hotels Corporation. Travel + Leisure and USA TODAY are exclusive media co-hosts; Baccarat and Marriott International are diamond sponsors; Amazing Taste, LLC is strategic marketing and event consultant; and Do More Good | CSK is directing strategic brand marketing and design.

To partner with the school on this premier event, please contact Kathleen Bolton, manager of corporate affairs at the SHA, at [email protected]. For additional information, please visit

About the Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship
An operating unit of the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, the PIHE advances the study and practice of entrepreneurship and innovation in the hospitality industry. Through our network of faculty, industry leaders, and entrepreneurs, we give students the knowledge and skills they need to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors. To learn more about the PIHE, visit

About the Cornell Nolan School of Hotel Administration

The Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration is the premier school for hospitality education in the world. As an integral part of the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, the school is leading the world in teaching and researching the business of hospitality—marketing, finance, real estate, operations, and more, all applied to the world’s largest and most exciting industry. Top faculty, industry leaders, alumni, and students work together to generate new knowledge for the hospitality industry and form the premier network that shapes the industry every day.

Ashlee McGandy