He charmed “Top Chef” audiences and judges alike in 2012, winning season nine of the Bravo reality TV show with his distinctive fusion of Japanese, French and Filipino cuisine. But now, restaurateur and James Beard award winner Paul Qui faces charges of assault and unlawful restraint after a fight with his girlfriend.
The Austin American -Statesman reported police arrived at an apartment in East Austin around 8 a.m. Saturday after a report of a disturbance to find Qui, clad in just boxer shorts and a tank top, with “blood all over his face, arms, legs and clothing,” as an officer noted in an affidavit, published by the Miami New Times. The unit was “in complete disarray, and furniture and glass were broken.” There was also “blood smeared on the walls and the floor.”
Qui was not alone, but with a woman who said she had been dating him for a year, and living with him for eight months. The woman’s son was also present. The woman told police that Qui and some friends “were all indulging in cocaine, Xanax, alcohol and marijuana” the night before, but that Qui had thrown everyone out of the apartment after accusing his friends of “enticing her into having group sex.” He then “became enraged and started knocking over furniture, shelves, tables and breaking glass.”
When the woman tried to leave with her son, she said Qui prevented her from doing so, throwing her around the room and injuring her knee, hip and arm. The officer noted a “fresh cut on her right forearm and bruising on her upper arms” as well as her swollen jaw.
Qui, the affidavit said, admitted to grabbing the woman, and said she had not assaulted him. In a statement, he said he would be seeking treatment for his problems.
“On Saturday morning, I asked my friend to call the police to aid in an argument with my girlfriend that had escalated beyond my control. I was arrested and charged with two misdemeanors. I am innocent of the charge of assault,” Qui wrote in an email, as Austin 360 reported. “This situation made me realize that I need to take more time for my health and myself. I will be checking myself into a treatment facility in the coming days and I am appreciative of the support of my family, friends and partners. Thank you for respecting my privacy.”
A public records search did not show that Qui, who was born in the Philippines and went to high school in Springfield, Va., had a criminal record. However, in a piece called “How I Went from Being a Terrible Drug Dealer to Top Chef,” he noted he “got in trouble a lot when I was young … sneaking out, going to buy weed, going to rave clubs in D.C.”
“As an art major in college, I was waiting tables to make money, then started selling drugs before I realized I was a bad drug dealer,” he wrote in Vice last year. “I woke up one morning and there was dog s—t all over the floor; people that I didn’t know were passed out in my house. I started wondering, What am I going to do with my life?”
In an interview with Food and Wine, Qui said his cuisine was greatly influenced by his family.
“The first person who got me interested in cooking was my grandmother,” he said. “I spent a lot of time with her when I was younger, living in the Philippines. She taught me about patience. When I would hang out with her in the kitchen, she would cook a lot of things with pork. She’d render back fat and cook vegetables with it. My favorite snacks were the chicharrónes, the rendered pork rinds. She showed me how it pays to take time with food.”
“The show revealed Qui as curious, daring, playful, earnest, passionate and grounded,” it wrote. “Those same qualities are showcased at the chef’s eponymous restaurant. The kitchen builds beautiful and compelling dishes, utilizing precise technique on display in the open kitchen.”
The Texas Monthly said that the charges against Qui should not be ignored.
“It’ll be unfortunate if the reporting on Qui and this incident treats his arrest on domestic violence charges as just another unfortunate thing that happens in the restaurant business,” Dan Solomon wrote. “… There’ll be stories to write about the damage that these allegations do to the Qui brand, but any blowback will ultimately be weathered by people who choose not to associate with someone accused of violence. Keeping the real, human stakes around the issue in mind is important, because the way we talk about domestic violence allegations frequently underplays how pervasive it is in our culture.”
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