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Alinea’s Top Bartender’s Departure and Four More Shuffles

A running log of key moves within Chicago’s hospitality industry

Chicago mayor calls for upscale bar owners to take appropriate action in Eric Trump spitting case
The Aviary lost a key staff member.
Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Loop: Kaleena Bliss, a Seattle chef hot off a pair of TV cooking competition victories, is relocating to Chicago to take over as executive chef at the Chicago Athletic Association (CAA) hotel on Wednesday, March 1, according to a rep. She’ll almost exclusively focus on operations at Cindy’s, the hotel’s rooftop restaurant with sweeping views of Millennium Park. Bliss is an alumna of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, who worked her way through the Pacific Northwest. Her previous positions include executive sous chef at Seattle’s Edgewater Hotel and executive chef at the Thompson Seattle. In 2022, she won Food Network’s Chopped: Casino Royale and Beachside Brawl.

The Loop: Virgin Hotels Chicago has tapped executive chef Mike Alaridi to oversee all its dining establishments — Italian restaurant Miss Ricky’s, rooftop spot Cerise, and Two Zero Three coffee bar — according to a rep. Born and raised in Syria, Alaridi cut his culinary teeth at age 14 with a position at famed Damascus restaurant Bawabet Dimashq, hailed as the largest restaurant in the world that can simultaneously serve more than 6,000 patrons. He then decamped to cook in Cyprus and eventually traveled across Europe as the Italian executive chef for catering company Faloremo Trading, including a year perfecting his pasta-making skills in Sicily. Alaridi plans to hit the ground running this spring with the launch of a new herb garden at the hotel.

Fulton Market: Beverage director Micah Melton has left the Aviary, the pioneering cocktail bar from the owners of Alinea. Melton made his announcement last week. “I never imagined accomplishing 1/100th of the things I did and it all feels a bit surreal when I look back at it,” he writes. “The time has come for a change though, time for me to redefine who I am, and for @aviarycocktails to redefine itself again.” Melton started at the Aviary in 2010, and Alinea Group co-founder Nick Kokonas notes that Melton joined the company as its first-ever ice chef: “Micah is an example of what we strive to do at TAG,” Kokonas writes to Eater via email. “[To] bring in great people and give them opportunities for professional and creative growth.”

River North: The Downtown location of Asian-inspired club and restaurant Tao Chicago has selected Texas-born executive chef Amanda Barnes to lead daily culinary operations, staffing, development, research, and design, according to a rep. Barnes began her hospitality career as a pastry chef in St. Louis before relocating to Chicago and going on to open the Publican in Fulton Market. She previously served as executive chef at Hot Chocolate, pastry whiz Mindy Segal’s shuttered Bucktown restaurant, and worked at Moto, the Purple Pig, and the Alinea Group.

Lake Geneva: The Abbey Resort & Avani Spa in Lake Geneva, a Wisconsin resort town 80 miles northwest of Chicago that’s a popular travel destination for Illinois residents, has hired executive chef Luis Quezada to lead its Waterfront Cafe and 240 West restaurant, according to a rep. His new menu, designed to emphasize local agriculture, includes crispy skin salmon with corn puree, caramelized carrots, and baby kale-fennel salad; pappardelle with short rib and roasted vegetables, and lamb brasato with polenta and salsa verde.

TAO Chicago

632 North Dearborn Street, , IL 60654 (224) 888-0388 Visit Website

Chicago Athletic Association

12 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL (312) 940-3552 Visit Website


1500 Colorado Boulevard, , CA 90041 (323) 257-7375 Visit Website

Virgin Hotel

203 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60601 (312) 940-4440

The Aviary

955 West Fulton Market, , IL 60607 Visit Website


203 N Wabash Ave, Chicago, IL 60601 (312) 940-4774