After 18 months of heading up the kitchen at Delray’s historic Sundy House, former "Top Chef" contestant Lindsay Autry has left to pursue other projects, and the boutique inn and restaurant’s spokeswoman is promising her replacement will be “a big surprise.”

Rescued from a volleyball game with Robert Irvine as part of the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival, Autry said she was leaving on good terms after a stay that was originally intended to last only six months. “I ended up falling in love [with the restaurant] and staying a year longer,” she says.

At the end of that extra year, though, “I felt I’d accomplished what I wanted,” she says, to “bring new life” to the restaurant whose famously gorgeous tropical gardens had often outshone its cuisine. For now, Autry says she’ll be focusing on a variety of personal projects, doing chefs dinners, working with the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and acting as exec chef at Swank Specialty Produce’s acclaimed Swank Table luncheons.

A restaurant of her own “is one of the things I’m pursuing,” she said, though there’s nothing firm as of yet. It will, however, be in Palm Beach County, as “I enjoy living here and have built up a good following.”

Sundy House spokeswoman Winnie Edwards says, “We were so happy to have had Lindsay,” but that a new chef and new concept were in the offing to “take the restaurant to the next level.” Exactly what those are will remain a mystery for another week or two, though Edwards says the chef is from Florida and will be charged with keeping the restaurant competitive in one of the toughest dining markets in South Florida.

Stay tuned. As soon as I know, you’ll know.