This weekend, dozens of well-known chefs, mixologists, sommeliers, and restaurateurs will descend upon Austin for the second annual Austin Food & Wine Festival.
To prepare for this weekend’s food and wine festivities, Texas Monthly spoke with a few of the local and celebrity chefs from this year’s lineup.
Here, Paul Qui of East Side King, Top Chef fame, and the yet-to-be-opened restaurant, Qui, discusses his much-anticipated restaurant, traveling across the world, and what Austin chefs inspire him.
Layne Lynch: You’ve had a whirlwind few months. You’ve been traveling, making appearances, and opening East Side King on the Drag. Now that Qui is about to open, are you ready to get back in the kitchen for a while?
Paul Qui: Absolutely! I’m getting restless and can’t wait to cook in my new kitchen. My head is about to explode with all the ideas that I want to pursue and develop at Qui.
LL: The anticipation behind QUI is remarkable. What are some of the surprises we can expect to see when the restaurant opens?
PQ: There will be no surprises, really. The restaurant is based on the best ingredients and best efforts that my team and I can execute.
LL: I know you’ve been eating quite a bit on your travel stops, so I have ask, what cities or restaurants have inspired you most?
PQ: RyuGin and Jiro in Tokyo; Noma in Copenhagen; Dinner [by Heston Blumenthal] in London; Modernist Kitchen in Seattle; Meadowood in Napa; Pujol in Mexico City; Robuchon Atelier and Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie in Paris; Mugaritz, Arzak, and Akelarre in San Sebastian; and many more. All my dishes at Qui will pull inspiration from all my experiences and all my team’s experiences.
LL: You’ve just recently become quite the celebrity chef. Is it exciting to have people recognize you everywhere you go in Austin, or are there days when you just want to go unnoticed?
PQ: I don’t know how to act like a celebrity; all I can do is act like myself and hope people appreciate me and my craft.
LL: Who are some of the local Austin chefs you admire or draw inspiration from?
PQ: Tyson Cole has been my primary mentor, but I’ve been inspired and mentored by Shawn Cirkiel, Philip Speer, Andrew Bell, and Deegan McClung throughout the years. I really dig Casey Wilcox’s food from Justine’s, especially when he gets back from one of his food trips. Rene Ortiz, Laura Sawicki, Egnipont, Ek, Yoshi Okai, [and] Tatsu Aikawa to name a few.
LL: After Qui opens, what new projects can we expect to see from you? Cookbooks, restaurants, pop-ups, collaborations, ACL and SXSW events?
PQ: Definitely all of the above, but my main focus will be Qui. I’m interested in doing a lot things, but I will get tunnel vision once we open the doors at Qui. My main focus will be the exciting ingredients that we’ll be bringing in and how to make them amazing.