Top chef Josh Barlow has quit his job at Sky City's Sugar Club after only just over a year in the job.
He announced on Instagram this morning: "It's a sad moment to announce this but effective immediately I have resigned from my position as the Executive Chef at The Sugar Club."
But he was coy on his reasons, saying: "I have my reasons. Some of which I'm prepared to talk about openly and some of which I'm not ready to talk about in a public forum. #watchthisspace."
A SkyCity spokesman said Barlow "has left SkyCity due to personal reasons".
"We wish him all the best for the future and will start the recruitment process for his position in consultation with The Sugar Club's Signature Chef, Peter Gordon," the company said.
"Our team of talented chefs at The Sugar Club will continue to serve the quality dishes that our guests know and love until a new executive chef is found."
Barlow, 30, took the helm at The Sugar Club on level 53 of Auckland's Sky Tower in May last year after 17 months as head chef of The Grove restaurant in St Patrick's Square.
Originally from Hamilton, he worked at Hamilton's Le Grand Hotel and then at Huka Lodge near Taupō before heading to Sydney in 2007 and then Britain from 2009 to 2015, where he worked at a series of top restaurants and hotels including Claridge's.
He told Urban List last year that he had an "incredibly supportive wife who puts up with all my long hours and two young daughters".
"We moved back from London in 2015 to start a family and Auckland was the obvious choice after living in London for eight years," he told the website.
"I liked what I saw in the food scene here and when I was offered the Senior Sous Chef role at The Grove with Ben Bayly I couldn't really say no."
His Instagram post said The Sugar Club "went from zero to 2 hats in the @cuisinemagazine good food guide in less than 6 months after I took over".
"We cooked a private lunch for Heston thanks to @kellibrett's belief in me and my take on what New Zealand cuisine is," he said.
"We cooked some amazing food and supported and celebrated the best suppliers NZ has to offer thanks to @elementfoodltd."
Only last month he launched what was billed as "New Zealand's first ever low carbon menu", developed with Enviro-Mark Solutions to minimise the food's effects on global warming.
While he was at The Grove from 2016 until early last year, he and fellow Grove chef Brody Jenkins started Jo Bros Burgers, which serves healthy burgers from a caravan to raise money for All Good, a non-profit that uses food as a way to bring people together to support mental health.
"Mental health is a hot topic for the hospitality industry right now, and we'd like to do everything we can to address the negative points of working in a kitchen – or keep making noise until things change," the two men said on their website.
"We also want to spread the word that sitting down and tucking into a meal affects the world around you more than you might think.
"When you bite into a burger, you're supporting the livelihoods of the farmers who grew the lettuce and tomatoes, and reared the cows. You're helping out the baker who got up at 4am in the morning to make the buns and the chef who put it all together.
"We want to make people aware of the hugely positive effect choosing sustainable local produce can have, and the perks of knowing where every single ingredient in your food comes from."
Messages on Instagram today offered supportive comments.
"All the best @joshy_b123, family and yourself are number 1, it's good to take a deep breath and step back, you will smash your next venture, good luck and enjoy," one friend wrote.
Another posted: "Hope you are ok bro. You are doing an amazing job mate and have achieved alot for NZ food culture and look forward to seeing what you are up to next."
Last month, HeadQuarters owner Leo Molloy attacked The Sugar Club in a post online, describing the SkyCity venue as a "god awful restaurant" and claiming the consortium it belongs to survives off gambling profits.
Molloy's post came after the NZ Herald's Be Well magazine included an excerpt about The Sugar Club's low-carbon menu.
Molloy wasn't impressed and wrote: "When you live in a city that demands a certain amount of wankerage (new word) if you are to make an impression you tend to develop a certain tolerance for posers and tossers, even those from Ponsonby and Grey Lynn.
"But surely this tripe from The Sugar Club exceeds all reasonable levels of 'self pleasuring' and should come with an obligatory box of tissues
"[Why] didn't they mention that their god awful restaurant has only survived because it's part of a ... consortium that uses pokie money to subsidise its entire hospo portfolio and to prop up operations like this that wouldn't survive in an open market?"
A SkyCity spokesperson responded at the time: "Leo is entitled to his views, although given TripAdvisor rates his restaurant as the 287th-best in Auckland with three-and-a-half stars while The Sugar Club, which has two Cuisine Hats, is ranked the 20th-best with four-and-a-half stars, it would appear that neither food reviewers nor the dining public agree with him."