Aaron Whitcomb, the highly touted executive chef of Room 21 (2110 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-328-1198), has left. “Aaron is a great chef, but he’s a young kid,” says owner Jerry Kleiner. [Note: he’s 30.] “He was overwhelmed by the volume and the pressure. He just couldn’t take it anymore and kept saying it would be best for him to be replaced.” Whitcomb says the split was amicable, and would like to work with Kleiner on a smaller restaurant. “I’m not meant to do big restaurants,” Whitcomb says. “I’m not used to the owners having as much input on the menu, like Room 21 did. We both knew I wasn’t being the chef that he needs at Room 21.”
Stepping in for Whitcomb is Fred Ramos, a veteran chef currently running the show at Kleiner’s Gioco (1312 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-939-3870), eight blocks to the north. Room 21’s menu remains as is, and a permanent chef replacement is on the way. Whitcomb lasted 48 days, including last Thursday, when Room 21 played host to an Ocean’s Thirteen release party featuring the likes of George Clooney, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, and Bernie Mac, which must count for something.