October 22, 2014

Is Paul Qui the most talented Top Chef everTom Colicchio, the head judge of Top Chef for 12 seasons, recently admitted to the Huffington Post that his favorite past contestant is Season 9 winner Paul Qui.

Paul Qui, chef and owner of qui restaurant and East Side King, has not only won Top Chef, but also is a recipient of the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southwest 2012, the San Pellegrino Cooking Cup 2013, and was named to Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2014 and Top 10 Empire Builders of 2012.

During the ninth season of the show, Qui stood out as he won eight of the 16 elimination challenges.

“In fact, we had to dumb down how good he was because it would have been pretty obvious that he was running away with everything,” Colicchio told HuffPost Live host Caitlyn Becker. He explained how suspense i sdetrimental to the show’s success and must be present until the season’s end, hence their “dumbing down” of Qui’s skills in order to keep the audience’s interest.

Qui was born in the Philippines and is trained in French and Japanese cuisine. He alters traditional Japanese dishes to accommodate local flavors and incorporates influences from Europe and Southeast Asia.

His multicultural approach is showcased in the menu at qui, which includes pinakbet, a Filipino ratatouille with ginger rice and salmorra, and dinuguan, pork shoulder with blood, rice and red onion. The menu also includes sisig, a crispy pigs head with fried egg. The East Side King’s diverse fleet of food trucks and restaurants include menu items that are Thai, and Vietnamese, and French-influenced. Think gaufrettes, pho, and meshi all at the same place.

The chef is a staple of the Austin culinary scene as well as globally. He is so well-loved that Mayor Lee Leffingwell declared April 6 “Paul Qui Day” in Austin.

Is he really Top Chef’s best contender ever? We’ll have to see who comes after him.