For years now, word has spread of Austin chef Paul Qui’s culinary brilliance, first at Uchi and Uchiko and later for his edgy East Side King food trucks and storefronts. In 2013, he achieved the dream of opening his eponymous restaurant, Qui. Late last year, his first out-of-state project, Pao, opened at the Faena Hotel in Miami.
Today, the news spreading about the chef is of a different kind. NBC station KXAN first reported that Qui was arrested on Saturday morning just after 8 a.m. and charged with “unlawful restraint” and “assault causing bodily injury to a family member” — specifically, to his girlfriend of one year, Stephanie Rodriguez. She later told the police that she and Qui had lived together for eight months.
The arrest affidavit obtained by the Houston Press states that Qui and some friends were "indulging in cocaine, Xanax, marijuana and alcohol" in his apartment. He woke up Rodriguez, who was asleep with her young son, and asked her to join the party.
Rodriguez had a few drinks, and then Qui "became increasingly jealous and started accusing his friends of flirting with her and inticing [sic] her into having group sex." He is said to have then kicked his friends out and started "knocking over furniture, shelves, tables and breaking glass all over the apartment." The affidavit states that Rodriguez said Qui prevented her and her son from leaving several times and then “picked her up and started throwing her up against the walls and doors while telling her she wasn’t going to leave.”
Worst of all, the fight apparently went on while her young son was present. The reporting officer states in the affidavit that Rodriguez said she "had a lot of pain on the left side of her body in her hip and knee area as well as arm pain." The officer furthermore said there were visible injuries, including a cut on Rodriguez's right forearm, bruising on her upper arms and a puffy, swollen jaw. A copy of the affidavit is below.
In a Vice Munchies article titled "How I Went From Being A Terrible Drug Dealer To Top Chef," Qui told reporter Laura Dixon that he started dealing drugs when he was attending college in Houston. The article states:
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. I woke up one morning and there was dog shit 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?
Back then, Austin had the shortest and cheapest culinary program, so I decided to move there with a friend who was a DJ. I was so broke. A buddy of mine said, “I can’t really help you out with cash,” but he gave me 500 pills of Xanax. That was my start-up fund.
Qui, a native of the Philippines until age ten, worked his way up from unpaid intern to chef de cuisine at the original Uchi in Austin. In 2011, his fame grew after he won the ninth season of reality cooking competition show Top Chef.
In 2012, he won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest for his work at Uchiko, the year after his mentor, Uchi founder Tyson Cole, tied with Saipin Chutima of Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas for the award.
This is not the first time an Austin chef associated with Uchi has faced criminal charges. Phillip Speer, former director of culinary operations, was sentenced to ten days in jail and seven years of probation after pleading guilty to driving while intoxicated. According to Eater Austin, Speer has worked hard to turn his life around and intends to open a new restaurant.
We’ve emailed the press contact for Qui restaurant and will update this story if we receive a statement.
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