Paul Qui is a chef on the move. On Friday, Qui got a key to the city of Austin and celebrated Paul Qui Day. On Saturday, he was on his way to D.C. On Sunday, he was anticipating the Easter Egg Roll event on White House lawn. The ever-busy Qui took a few minutes to chat with TEXAS MONTHLY about his recent fame, crawfish, and his most exciting experience since winning Top Chef Texas.
Tell me what you’re doing in D.C.
Well I’m up here to cook for the Easter Egg Roll [event] on the White House lawn. I’m doing a cooking demo on how to make my version of a Filipino dessert: halo-halo. It’s a healthier version made specifically for kids.
Why that dessert?
I wanted to make something that’s a healthier version of halo-halo, and the reason I picked it is because I think it will be something easy for kids to do at home on their own.
Does that have anything to do with Michelle Obama’s mission to have healthier food in school?
Yes, definitely. It’s linked to her “Let’s Move!” initiative.
Are you going to meet the Obama family?
I hope I do. I’m not sure if I am, but I’m really pulling for it.
What was Paul Qui Day like?
It was interesting. Again, I’ve been traveling a bit and it was like my one day in Austin. I had never been to City Hall, so that was quite an experience. I was so surprised by the honor. Since [my girlfriend] Deana and I have been traveling so much, we wanted to do everyday normal things while we were in Austin, but it goes to show my life is anything but normal right now. We did get to eat crawfish. It was the first time this year we were able to get crawfish this season. It was a great day.
What’s next on the horizon for you?
The immediate future includes a little more traveling, and I’m going to be visiting different Uchi locations starting with Uchi Houston next week. I’m going to spend a week with the guys there, then I’m going to go back to Uchi, and then I’m going to be at my Uchiko. I’m going to rotate between the three locations.
You’re obviously not at Uchiko now, but are you confident the guys are holding down the fort for you?
Absolutely, I think a big part of creating a great restaurant is having the right crew. It took me about a year, a year and a half before we were hitting our stride at the restaurant. I’m extremely proud of my guys.
So many exciting things have happened to you since winning Top Chef. What’s been the most exciting or rewarding experience through all of this?
The most exciting thing for me is the traveling. I’ve spent the last eight years in Uchi kitchens and Uchiko. I never really got the opportunity to travel much and see the world. It’s been amazing getting to see places that I’ve never been to before. I’m still just taking it all in.
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