If you’re going to be in the Texas area any time soon, Paul Qui is a name you’ll want to know. The former Season Nine Top Chef, James Beard Award winner, and current king of Austin’s culinary scene (he’s even got a Key to the City and a day named after him), Chef Paul Qui is known for his unique style: an aggregation of influences from his Filipino heritage, a Texas upbringing, his formal training in French cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu, and his years as a chef at the renowned sushi restaurants Uchi and Uchiko. Earlier this year, Paul opened the doors to his very own Austin restaurant, qui (yes, lowercase). Each day Paul and his team work together to concoct a progressive menu that changes daily. We were able to get the scoop on his story and what inspired him to start a career in the culinary world, and we've been lucky enough to get our hands on some of his recipes. He and sommelier June Rodil are putting together some mouthwatering food and wine pairings with Club W wines. Check out the dishes straight from the qui kitchen: Kinilaw (Filipino ceviche), Cote d'Boeuf, and Dinuguan (pork blood stew).
When did your love affair with cooking begin?
My love affair began late in life, while working in restaurants as a server in college. I was 22 when I decided to move to Austin to go to culinary school.
Was opening your own restaurant always something you wanted to do?
Yes, I've always wanted to open my own restaurant, but I don't think that there was ever an "aha" moment – it's something I've been planning forever since I took this path. I worked my way up the Uchi family ladder, and it was just the right time.
What’s a typical day like for you at qui?
A typical day for me always starts with reading last night's notes and going over the day's prep lists with my staff. The menu evolves organically based on the ingredients we get in.
What’s the one ingredient you use that adds the most flavor or unique taste to a dish?
Fish sauce is an ingredient I love working with because it adds a depth of flavor. I've eaten a lot of fish sauce growing up in Manila, and it's something I fell in love with while eating Vietnamese food.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned since opening your own restaurant?
You have to wake up everyday prepared for something to fail.
How big of an influence do food and wine pairings play when coming up with dishes?
June and I go with what's best seasonally and let things evolve organically.
What is your beverage of choice?
Tea, bubbly, and Riesling.
Qui is chock-full of unique and creative dishes. But please, describe cheddar cheese ice cream for anyone who’s never had the pleasure.
It's cheddar cheese ice cream in between crispy waffles with goat milk cajeta.
What’s next for qui?
We're opening the tasting room, and East Side King is coming soon to South Lamar.