How very high-low. Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, was in Chipotle one day and he was quite miffed that he had nothing to read while he munched on his burrito. “I really just wanted to die with frustration,” he told Vanity Fair.
The author was so riled that he emailed the Chipotle C.E.O. Steve Ells directly: “I bet a s—load of people go into your restaurants every day, and I bet some of them have very similar experiences, and even if they didn’t have that negative experience, they could have a positive experience if they had access to some kind of interesting text…Wouldn’t it be cool to just put some interesting stuff on it? Get really high-quality writers of different kinds, creating texts of different kinds that you just give to your customers as a service.”
Ells knew a good thing when he saw it, so he gave Foer the green light to select writers and edit their stories for Chipotle’s cups. Foer composed a short called “Two Minute Personality Test” and then asked Malcolm Gladwell, Toni Morrison, George Saunders, Judd Apatow, Sarah Silverman, Bill Hader and others to contribute pieces. “I tried to put together a somewhat eclectic group, in terms of styles,” he said. “I wanted some that were essayistic, some fiction, some things that were funny, and somewhat thought provoking.”
Vanity Fair asked if he had any reservations about working with Chipotle, being that his nonfiction book Eating Animals was a critical look at the American food industry and our culture’s gluttonous obsession with eating. He said that Chipotle wasn’t one of the fast food villains, but “that’s not really why I did this. I mean, I wouldn’t have done it if it was for another company like a McDonald’s, but what interested me is 800,000 Americans of extremely diverse backgrounds having access to good writing. A lot of those people don’t have access to libraries, or bookstores. Something felt very democratic and good about this.”
This has got to be one of the most unexpected collaborations since…last week when Cher was featured on the new Wu-Tang Clan album.