Acclaimed chef Aaron Lirette has left Free Rein seven months after opening the restaurant inside the St. Jane Hotel on Michigan Avenue, just south of the Chicago River. Lirette brought Michelin-rated experience to the hotel as was the chef at GreenRiver, the Streeterville cocktail bar and restaurant that earned a Michelin star before its January 2018 closure. Critics didn’t review Free Rein as a runaway hit, but they generally praised the restaurant and Lirette’s work for his contemporary American menu.
Lirette announced his departure via Instagram, writing the St. Jane and Free Rein “have decided to move in a different way with the culinary program.” While he didn’t respond to a request for further comment, his post mentioned he’d be open “if anyone has any opportunities on the horizon.”
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The @stjanehotel @freereinchicago have decided to move in a different way with the culinary program. As a result the hotel and I have parted ways. I’d like to thank the culinary team for all the hard work, dedication, and loyalty. Please feel free to reach out if anyone has any opportunities on the horizon. I wish everyone the best.
A St. Jane spokesperson confirmed Lirette’s departure but wouldn’t specify what direction the restaurant may be moving toward: “We do not have details to share regarding his replacement at this time, but we are excited about what the future holds for Free Rein,” part of the statement read.
The St. Jane opened last year replacing the Hard Rock Hotel with Free Rein taking over the restaurant space that one held Chuck’s: A Kerry Simon Kitchen.