UPDATE: Since publication of this story, Qui's trial was pushed back to May 1.
Almost two years after being charged with assault and unlawful restraint, Paul Qui is having his day in court. On February 5, the celebrity chef and Top Chef winner goes to trial in Travis County on charges related to a reportedly drug-fueled March 19, 2016 incident that allegedly turned violent after Qui flew into a jealous rage.
According to the arrest affidavit, police received a disturbance with violence call reporting that Qui and his girlfriend were fighting inside an apartment in East Austin. Officers arriving at the scene reported finding “blood smeared on the walls and the floor” and the apartment “in complete disarray” with broken and turned-over furniture scattered throughout.
Qui’s girlfriend told authorities that the incident began after Qui arrived with a group of friends who were reportedly using alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, and Xanax.
The affidavit states that after the girlfriend joined for a couple of drinks, "[Qui] became increasingly jealous and started accusing his friends of flirting with her and enticing her into having group sex.” That allegedly led to Qui kicking his friends out of the home. He then began “knocking over furniture, shelves, tables, and breaking glass all over the apartment.”
The girlfriend told police that she tried to leave the apartment with her son, but the chef prevented her from doing so by "forcibly pushing her away from the door or pushing her on to the floor.” She then stated that Qui “started throwing her up against the walls and doors and told her she wasn’t going to leave." She reported hip, knee, and arm pain and police observed a fresh cut, bruising, and a slightly swollen jaw.
In a statement to Austin360 following the arrest, Qui denied the assault charges, but said he needed to “take more time for my health and myself.” He promised to check himself into rehab.
That did little to assuage the outrage, and many in the Austin community called for a boycott of Qui’s namesake restaurant, Otoko, and his East Side King chain. In November of 2017, Qui was briefly shuttered before being given a slight renovation and rebranding in January 2017 as Kuneho. This past November, Kuneho also closed.
Outside of Austin, Qui continues to operate Pao by Paul Qui in Miami Beach, and opened Houston's Aqui in August of last year. But he remains a polarizing figure. For a February 2 Houston Chronicle story, Eater national editor-in-chief Amanda Kludt followed in the footsteps of several Texas food writers, telling the paper bluntly that she has “zero interest in going to Paul’s restaurants.” The Washington Post also weighed in on the controversy with a February 2 piece examining the difficult choice food critics face in choosing to review — or not — the embattled chef's restaurant.
CultureMap will continue to follow this story as it develops.