Leading Melbourne chef Khanh Nguyen shocked fans and followers on Sunday afternoon when he announced he has left top restaurants Aru, Sunda and upcoming bakery and brasserie Antara 128.

Nguyen posted a montage of memories from his five and a half years with the Hotel Windsor group, the owner of the fine diners. “I’m feeling all sorts of mixed emotions knowing what I’m about to say may come as a shock. It is with a heavy heart as I announce my difficult decision to bid farewell to Sunda, Aru and Antara … I have dedicated my life and soul to these establishments, guiltily, sometimes putting them before my family.”

When asked about whether tension in the kitchen had led to his departure, as some online comments speculated, Nguyen says: “I did see comments from people suggesting (Aru and Sunda) was a toxic work environment ... but it’s definitely not the reason I’m leaving.”

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Nguyen says there wasn't any truth to the speculation, and that he had received messages of support from staff after his departure. He tells Broadsheet he left on "the best of terms."

"I understand it is a shock for everybody else but for us it’s something we’ve discussed and planned to make sure the restaurant runs without me," he adds. “Both restaurants have strong teams that can carry the legacy and we didn’t feel like we had to announce (my departure) earlier.”

“For the last five years I’ve been doing service at least five or six nights a week. I just decided I want to do something different for myself. “

A spokesperson for Sunda and Aru owner Adipoetra Halim confirmed in a release that Nguyen’s last service was on Saturday. The restaurants would continue to run as usual without its star executive chef. “Sunda’s team will be continuing the restaurant’s legacy, while head chef Nico Koevoets will take over Aru,” the statement read. “Antara 128 is still very much on track for a third quarter opening, and we look forward to announcing more details soon.”

Despite the sudden nature of the departure, Nguyen insisted there are no hard feelings. “To each and every person who stood by my side throughout this incredible journey, I offer my deepest gratitude,” he said. “As I close this chapter, I am eager to script the unwritten pages that lie ahead.”

Nguyen closed his post with a quote attributed to the author Joseph Campbell: “Sometimes you have to let go of the life you planned to find the life that’s waiting for you.”

The news comes a little more than a week after the group’s “incubator” restaurant Parcs also announced its closure in abrupt fashion. "(Parcs closing) is just a coincidence," Nguyen says. "I didn’t even know Dennis (Yong) was leaving but he actually resigned a while ago as well."

As for what's next, Nguyen declines to elaborate, however says he will "always work in restaurants".

Broadsheet reached out to Aru and Sunda's ownership for for further comment.