Just days after a Travis County prosecutor dropped the domestic violence charges he was facing, chef Paul Qui is already looking for redemption.
As Eater reported last week, Qui opened Tacqui, his “Japanese-style taqueria” in Richardson, right before Travis County announced that it would not be prosecuting the chef. The charges stemmed from a 2016 domestic violence incident involving Qui and his girlfriend, whom he allegedly battered in front of her child. In his first interview since the charges were dropped, Qui says that this new restaurant is “part of his effort to move forward.”
The chef also claims that the now-dropped domestic violence charges have been affecting his ability to do business since that 2016 arrest.
“I’m not discounting what had happened, but every time my name comes up, it’s negative,” Qui told the Dallas Morning News. “It was hard. I would sit in my restaurant and then I would have guests come face me and say ‘I didn’t know this was your restaurant, otherwise I hope my dollars don’t go to your lawyer’ or something like that. It was pretty brutal.”
Qui doesn’t clarify exactly how his business has been impacted. To be sure, he’s closed restaurants — Kuneho, formerly known as his flagship restaurant Qui — but he’s also opened them at a relatively rapid clip. Last year, Qui debuted his restaurant Aqui in Houston to a great deal of critical acclaim, as well as significant backlash from diners and restaurant journalists. He’s opened Tacqui, his first DFW restaurant, and could bring even more restaurants to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. As Qui’s empire enters the rebuilding phase, with new restaurants potentially in the works, it doesn’t appear that he’s struggled to find investors, secure leases, or open restaurants.
With the charges dropped, Qui is looking to return to the career that brought him a Top Chef win, a James Beard Award, and the kind of hubris that makes him see opening a restaurant as a sort of redemption. “I acted irresponsibly. I was a public figure, you know. I can’t turn back time on anything like that. Just maybe one day I can cook for people again,” he said. “I can’t change the past. I can’t. All I can do is make sure people see me right in the future, and that’s what important to me.”