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Chipotle Just Hired a 'Top Chef' Winner to Run Its New Burger Chain

tasty made burgers
Courtesy of Chipotle

While there's been plenty of talk about Chipotle's ongoing comeback from its food-borne illness mishaps and the launch of its first-ever queso dip this month, you probably haven't heard much -- if anything -- from the burrito empire about its nascent burger chain, Tasty Made, since late last year. But on Tuesday, the company came out with some big news about the small restaurant concept: it has tapped a celebrity chef to take its helm. 

Richard Blais, the chef, restauranteur, and cookbook author best known as the winner of Bravo's Top Chef All-Stars show in 2011, will lead Tasty Made as part of a new special partnership with Chipotle. The move comes almost a year after the company opened the cheeseburger upstart's first and only location in Lancaster, Ohio, which features a decidedly simple menu of burgers, fries, milkshakes, and sodas. Blais has been tasked with revisiting the concept to enhance and potentially expand its food offerings, according to a press release

Chipotle describes Tasty Made as a "work in progress," but the noted chef's arrival signals the company is finally getting serious about its burger business.

"While talking about the possibility of joining forces to do something that would have a positive, meaningful impact on food culture in America, we quickly landed on the notion of his joining Tasty Made," Chipotle CEO and Founder Steve Ells said in a statement. "I have long believed that there was an opportunity to make the fast food burger a great burger using better quality ingredients. Richard’s expertise is perfect to help us do that."

Although Tasty Made switched to conventional beef from "responsibly raised" beef for its burgers last December, the roadside-style fast food joint adheres to Chipotle's strict standards for ingredients. The cheeseburgers are made with fresh beef, the fries are hand-cut at the location, and the vanilla milkshakes are made with just five ingredients: milk, cream, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. It remains to be seen how Blais will alter the menu, but a Chipotle spokesperson has already hinted that the burgers will be noticeably different.

That detail is the most Chipotle will reveal for now, though. The company wouldn't say if the move means there are plans to open additional Tasty Made locations in more cities, but at this point, it's probably safe to say it's only a matter of time before more people can try Chipotle's take on the classic fast food fare.

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Tony Merevick is Senior News Editor at Thrillist and would love to try a Tasty Made burger someday. Send news tips to news@thrillist.com and follow him on Twitter @tonymerevick.