Esquire, the men's magazine showcasing all things stylish and sexy has bestowed upon Austin's top chef another major honor: Chef of the Year. Paul Qui, proprietor of Qui and the East Side King franchise, received the award Tuesday night at the Esquire Food and Drink Awards in New York. "Qui is a true sui generis talent, and none of his work — currently on display in his fantastic new restaurant, called Qui — is easily classified," writes Esquire.
Unlike many critics and food writers who wax poetically about Qui's dishes (and rightfully so), Esquire writer Josh Ozersky manages to capture the essence of what makes our homegrown hero such a success. "One of the things that makes Qui exceptional is that unlike most great chefs — especially young ones — he doesn't bully his staff or feed off his own ego. Instead he creates a space in which his cooks can excel, working in quiet synchronicity." Indeed, it is hard to look around Austin's burgeoning culinary scene and not find something influenced by Qui and his contemporaries.
Ozersky also calls out Qui's partner and fiancee Deana Saukam, who has become as much the face of the Qui empire as the chef himself. "Deana Saukam ... has done more to enable his genius than any investor or critic, and you have a chef defined not just by his food but also by the quality and loyalty of the people behind him. Culinary brilliance and character don't always go together. In Qui's case, they do."
The award comes just a few weeks after Bon Appetit named East Side King's Wonderland outpost Thai-Kun the No. 8 best restaurant of the year.