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Omnivore - Paul Luna has left Atlanta for Switzerland

'In life I never set out to become a chef, a cook, or an ass, for that matter'

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For several months, there's been chatter that Paul Luna, the celebrated flamboyant chef whose food and antics have kept Atlantans enthralled since he first came to town in the early 1990s, was no longer in the kitchen of Lunacy Black Market, the quirky and beloved South Downtown restaurant he opened after returning to the city in 2009. The gist: he'd moved to Switzerland to live with his wife.

Aside from a Facebook post about the death of fellow chef Ria Pell, the outgoing and outspoken chef and one-time mayoral hopeful has been uncharacteristically silent. He did not respond to a late September email asking whether the chatter was true.

It turns out that it was. On Sunday, Luna sent us a brief line apologizing for not saying goodbye and included a message, addressed to the city, saying that he has moved to Europe.

"I did not leave Atlanta in search for a better place to live or where the grass may be greener," he wrote. "I left Atlanta to be with my lovely wife. She moved to Switzerland and I decided that life without her was meaningless. Happiness is what we should be seeking. The purpose of life is found, discovered in life's freedom. At least for me it is."

In the email, Luna talks about his love for Atlanta, the meaning of life, prejudice, and his ego, among other things. In addition, he also suggests that Atlanta honor Pell's life with a space inside a park "where people of all walks of life can sit, laugh, drink and cry."

He also asks customers to continue visiting LBM, which in recent weeks has relaunched its website and become more active on Twitter and Facebook, as he still supports and stays in touch with the management team. We've asked him what his relationship with the restaurant will be moving forward and will update if we hear back.

Luna's full letter follows after the jump.

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Dear Atlanta,

I write to thank you, the customers, the city and the friends I left behind for your business, your loyalty and your friendship. I want to let Ria Pell know that our last embrace will last a lifetime. I apologize for not being there but I was moved by the tribute - the support of her friends and customers. The city of Atlanta should honour Ria Pell with a space inside a park where people of all walks of life can sit, laugh, drink and cry. I believe she deserved such a place. Remembering Ria is Love. When you set life free, you will find happiness, which is the only goal, the absolute truth.

Ah... Atlanta.... I did think I could be a great Mayor for the city, because politicians or politics are about serving the people not their self-interest - the beginning of corruption. I thought I could make a difference in Atlanta, its people and culture. I was wrong. I was being selfish. It was my ego speaking. I know that.

Psychologically, we are all slaves, prisoners of thinking, thought. That is not to say that slavery did not exist. Even the most powerful leaders or wealthiest people in the world are slaves and prisoners unto themselves or their own craft. Prejudice has nothing to do with color. In America, the issue of prejudice has been distorted to be about the color of one's skin. Black and white are not colors - just ask any 5 year old kid in school. The moment you judge, you are prejudiced. Take a look in the mirror, the person you judge is yourself; and you reflect the images of your dislike on to people and the world. This is how we, you and I, live.

In life I never set out to become a chef, a cook, or an ass, for that matter. No, I just simply wanted to be myself. All of me. Part of you and I, together, not separated or divided, which make one whole human being. One plus one equals one.

So what? I threw out customers asking for salt and pepper. Blame it on youth. Then again look at the number of restaurants that do not put salt and pepper on the table. I have never asked people to like me. On the contrary, I asked to be loved, that's all. I loved the city of Atlanta, and it was thanks to the people, those customers that allowed me to express my love and frustration for cooking. And for that, I am grateful. I ask that you continue to visit Lunacy Black Market in my absence as I continue to support and keep in contact with the management team.

I did not leave Atlanta in search for a better place to live or where the grass may be greener. I left Atlanta to be with my lovely wife. She moved to Switzerland and I decided that life without her was meaningless. Happiness is what we should be seeking. The purpose of life is found, discovered in life's freedom. At least for me it is.