For more than two decades, Kylie Kwong has topped lists of Australia’s most influential chefs and restaurateurs. This morning, Kwong took to Instagram to share the news that she’s closing her South Eveleigh restaurant Lucky Kwong and “hanging up [her] restaurateur hat”.

“For the last 24 years of running Billy Kwong and Lucky Kwong, I have directed the narrative because it has been my story,” the post begins. “For all the many challenges that come with being in the hospitality industry, I consider myself fortunate for I have had far more positive experiences than negative. These last 24 years have really tested the mettle of one’s character, drawing out strengths I never knew existed, and have instilled deep values which continue to guide my path.”

“At the end of June, I am hanging up my restaurateur hat in order to make space for that which has become closest to my heart … Through the lens of food and interconnectedness, I wish to place all my energy, focus and time into helping share and amplify other people’s stories, particularly the important voices of First Nations people and our multicultural communities, who make Australia the rich and diverse country that it is today.”

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The 25-seat Lucky Kwong is the weekday- and lunch-only joint Kwong opened with her wife Nell. Marking the first time the pair have worked together, Lucky’s is named for the baby the couple lost to stillbirth in 2012. “Our son Lucky is my ‘spirit guide’ and only wants to be a ‘Force for Good’ in the community. Lucky’s spirit is all pervading, it is not just confined within the four walls of my eatery. As I embark on this new chapter, I feel clarity, excitement and strength because of Lucky’s continue guidance.”

Kwong shared in her post that she has “loved building strong bonds” in the South Eveleigh community with local schools, social enterprises – including Two Good Co, The Women’s and Girls’ Emergency Centre and the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence – as well as more broadly with the First Nations community which calls Redfern home.

“My focus is on remaining present and enjoying the final two months of my restaurant life with my beautiful, hardworking staff and loyal, appreciative diners. Food and cooking continues to be my love language, and with you, I want to farewell these last 24 years on an absolute high. I will then take some time out which is essential during a period of major transition. I will then look to explore options that best reflect my passions.”

As a chef, author, television presenter and through her two restaurants, Kwong’s modern takes on Chinese cuisine have shaped our collective palates. Before Lucky Kwong, there was the seminal Billy Kwong, which she opened with the late Bill Granger in May 2000 (and closed in 2019).

Other kitchen heavyweights paid tribute to Kwong in the comments of her announcement post.

Nigella Lawson says: “Thank you for all those years, and for your delicious and soulful genius! I feel a pang knowing that the next time I come back to Sydney there won’t be your restaurant to make a beeline for, but I’m so happy for you to have the time to do what’s right for you. You’ve earned the right, that’s for sure – and I’m excited for the next chapter. But oh, if I could come back one more time …”

Melissa Leong chimed in, too: “Thank you (and Lucky!), for being a trail-blazer and mould-breaker for the industry, and for women with ideas. Stories and soul are what you do so well … I know whatever comes next will be even bigger and brighter, and we will all be there to cheer you on in that endeavour, too.”

Lucky Kwong will close at the end of June.