On Monday, Avanti Food & Beverage announced plans to bring divisive Texas chef Paul Qui and his East Side King Japanese street food restaurant to the food hall in May. On Tuesday night, food hall management decided to pull out of the deal.
“We apologize to our guests, our tenants, and our team for misjudging the severity of the situation surrounding Chef Qui. At Avanti we pride ourselves on offering a safe, all welcoming environment. We want our actions to speak louder than words and therefore have cut all ties with Aqui Hospitality and East Side King. Our priority is to listen to our community and continue to support Denver’s culinary scene and aspiring restaurateurs,” Avanti Food & Beverage announced in a press statement.
Qui’s PR team sent Eater Denver a statement expressing disappointment that the deal fell through but noting that a Denver outlet for East Side King is still in the future.
“The East Side King team is extremely disappointed in Avanti’s decision to pull out of our agreement. Throughout the process, Chef Paul and the team have been forthcoming, collaborative and working in good faith towards a common goal. We still believe Denver is a wonderful community that is diverse, open minded and plan on bringing the concept to the city. The support we have received is greatly appreciated and look forward to being here in the near future.”
Qui, who rose to fame in 2011 after winning the ninth season of reality TV cooking show Top Chef, worked as the executive chef at Uchiko in Austin, a sister restaurant to Uchi, before opening East Side King in 2012 with its menu of beet home fries, steam buns, chicken karaage, bento boxes, and meshi, a rice dish. Qui won a James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2012 and was a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2011.
He opened fast-casual taco spot Tacqui in Dallas in 2018, then promptly closed it less than six months later. Aqui suffered the same fate in Houston, closing in December after a year-plus run. He closed Kuneho, the Japanese and sushi restaurant that he opened with his Top Chef winnings in June 2013 after a four-year run.
Qui also has Thai Kun in Austin and two East Side King locations in Austin.