Written by Ann Shepphird   

Chipotle Spicy GuacamoleAs a way to continue living into its motto of “Food with Integrity,” the Chipotle restaurant chain recently announced a commitment to source at least 35 percent of its produce, including bell peppers, jalapenos, romaine lettuce and red onions, from within 200 miles of each restaurant (the industry average is 1,500 miles) This is an increase of 10 percent last year before, when the program was initiated.

I recently spoke with Chris Arnold, a spokesperson for Chipotle, on the program, how they keep the ingredients consistent and tips for home gardeners on working with peppers and chilies. He was also nice enough to give us their recipe for spicy guacamole (click "read more" and the recipe will be at the bottom of the post).

What made you decide to embark on this program?

We have been on a journey for about the last 10 years looking to find more sustainable sources for all of the ingredients that we use. It started by using naturally raised pork and has grown from there. We serve more naturally raised meat than any restaurant in the world. Now we have been increasing the amounts of organic and locally grown produce – and have committed to buying at least 35 percent of at least one produce item from local farms. The food tastes better and it’s better for the animals and the environment.

Is there anything that has surprised you about the program?

We learned that when you operate 900 restaurants and serve a half million customers that it can be tough -- there’s not a switch we can throw to start serving all natural organic and sustainably raised foods. There just isn’t the supply. But we’ve also learned that if you commit to doing these things and are willing to move in smaller steps you can make significant progress over time -- and that customers are willing to pay a little bit more for food that they recognize as being better.

How do you keep the product consistent when sourcing from so many different farmers?

We have a strong quality assurance program in place with specifications for all of our ingredients that hold whether we’re buying from local farms or not. There are some flavor issues in dealing with really fresh foods from different sources. Peppers can be spicier during certain times and from certain places. We try to manage around that by teaching people to adjust recipes based on how things taste. The salsa and the guacamole are made fresh in each restaurant so they have the ability to adjust based on the flavor or spiciness of the ingredients.

What tips can you give on cooking with home-grown peppers and chilies?

It’s best to adjust quantities based on taste rather than using a pre-determined measure. If the peppers or chilies are too hot, back off on the quantity you start with – it’s always better to allow yourself the flexibility to add more.


1 large ripe avocado, peeled, pitted
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large serrano chilies seeded, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
Using fork, mash avocado with lime juice in small bowl. Add cilantro, chopped onion, chopped garlic, serrano chilies and salt and stir to combine.
Makes about one cup