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Kylie Kwong calls time on her restaurant career announcing Sydney’s Lucky Kwong to close in June

Kylie Kwong marks the end of her illustrious decades-long career with Lucky Kwong's closure next month.
Kylie KwongMark Pokorny

Celebrated Australian-Chinese chef Kylie Kwong is leaving the restaurant industry after more than two decades. 

Today, Kylie Kwong announced on Instagram that she’s “hanging up her restaurateur hat” and will close her popular Australian-Cantonese canteen, Lucky Kwong, vat the end of June. 

“For the last 24 years of running Billy Kwong and Lucky Kwong, I have directed the narrative because it has been my story,” Kwong writes in the post. “It has certainly been a colourful and life-changing few decades. For all the many challenges that come with being in the hospitality industry, I consider myself fortunate… I hold immense gratitude for all of you who have supported my staff and I along the way, and for all of your energy and encouragement.” 

Her first restaurant Billy Kwong revolutionised Australian cooking before it closed in 2019. It was here Kwong developed her signature culinary style, combining traditional Chinese cooking with native Australian ingredients. Gai lan, stir-fried in shiro shoyu and ginger, was swapped out for warrigal greens and saltbush. Where Kwong had once paired blood plums with duck, she began using Davidson’s plum with crisp-skinned duck. An acid-pop of finger lime and lilly pilly was used to cut through the richness of her red-braised pork belly.

In an interview with Gourmet Traveller in 2019, Kwong revealed that Billy Kwong’s closure was not the end of her career. Rather, it was the beginning of a new chapter, with the chef alluding to a new, small eatery with a simpler menu. “It won’t be a restaurant. Restaurants mean wine list, maître d’ – the emphasis is going to be on small, bespoke and intense cooking. It’s what I really love,” she told GT.

Two years later, she opened Lucky Kwong at Sydney’s South Eveleigh precinct near Redfern. The cafeteria-style eatery opened for weekday lunch only, with a focus on creating better work-life balance for Kwong and her team. Like its predecessor, Lucky Kwong earned widespread acclaim for Kwong’s commitment to quality produce and bold flavours, served with love. Menu highlights included spanner crab and prawn dumplings with Sichuan chilli dressing and South Eveleigh native bush mint; and savoury steamed pancakes with raw yellowfin tuna, fried egg, vegetables, native sea blite and caramel tamari XO.

The exterior of Lucky Kwong in Everleigh

“It’s a simple and humble offering that is very clear in its intention and motivation to positively contribute to society,” Kwong told GT in 2021, ahead of Lucky Kwong’s opening. The restaurant was named for her and her wife Nell’s baby son, who they lost to stillbirth in 2012.

“Since this life-changing event, I have been on the most extraordinary personal journey which has really prompted me to re-focus, re-evaluate and re-assess every aspect of my life,” she said. “I have called [Lucky Kwong] after our child, as an acknowledgement of this transformational journey; of what he has brought to my life and yes, because I now feel, genuinely lucky.”

Over the last two decades, Kwong has helped define what Australian food is, informed by her identity as much as by her strong connections to community. While Lucky Kwong is closing, Kwong’s indelible influence on Australian food will be felt for decades to come. Her next leap? Kwong hopes to continue her “lifelong passion for food, art, culture and connection” placing her energy and time to “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”.

Dumplings at Lucky Kwong
Dumplings at Lucky Kwong

“Food and cooking continue 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,” says Kwong on Instagram. 

“When I think about the two greatest Australian role models in our industry, Maggie Beer and Stephanie Alexander, and how they continue to trailblaze at this stage of their career — I feel like I’m only just at the beginning.”

Lucky Kwong will continue to be open Monday through Friday, from 11am to 2.30pm, until it closes in late June. 

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