Paul Qui grew up thousands of miles from the Lone Star state, surrounded by the cuisine and culture of his native Philippines. Qui might have moved to Springfield, Virginia, at only 10 years old, but those early impressions were so strong he can still remember aromas of fresh baked bread from his family’s grocery store.
College brought a slightly older Qui to Texas, where those evocative memories of his youth—and the strapped collegiate budget—drove him to his first jobs in the industry. Qui spent those formative years waiting tables at several restaurants. But rather than just pocketing the money for recreational use, Qui fostered an even deeper love for cuisine, even in the menial context of basic service. That growing interest in food led him to Austin’s Texas Culinary Academy in 2003, where he put his nascent passions to practical use.
If Qui’s talents were clear early on, so were his instincts. After being introduced to the restaurant by a friend, the young would-be chef took himself to Chef Tyson Cole’s popular Uchi night after night. Deeply impressed with the quality of the cuisine, Qui applied to Cole for a stage position. Cole wasn’t just satisfied with Qui, he was rewarded. And so he rewarded the young chef in turn by hiring him, first for a job at Uchi, and ultimately as overseer of the kitchen and sushi bar at Uchiko, Cole’s second beloved Austin restaurant. And while Qui’s culinary chops are quickly becoming known to the Austin world, his recent role as “cheftestant” on “Top Chef” season nine, title of James Beard’s 2012 “Best Chef, Southwest,” and his 2012 StarChefs.com Rising Stars Award have secured the young chef a much-deserved national—and international—culinary audience.