His boss might have won a James Beard Award, but Uchiko's Paul Qui has won the title of "Top Chef" in the finale of Wednesday night's Bravo hit series, "Top Chef: Texas."
Qui, who trained under Uchi chef Tyson Cole before taking the reins at Cole's second restaurant, Uchiko, in 2010, had been a fan and judges' favorite throughout the ninth season of the Emmy-winning series, and he beat Chicago chef Sarah Grueneberg in the finale at the Black & Blue restaurant in Vancouver.
Uchi and Uchiko have been hosting watch parties throughout the season, and during the finale Wednesday night at Uchiko, where Cole was working the kitchen, more than 100 people who were gathered around the TV sets hanging in the lobby and over the sushi bar erupted in cheers as Qui took home the coveted prize.
Alekz Xavier had never seen an episode of "Top Chef" until this season but, with three of her friends, had attended every watch party on Wednesday nights.
"It's been great to see him on TV not play into the politics," she said.
At the same table, Betsy Harrod, along with her husband, Bill, also hadn't missed a watch party.
"If we weren't here, Paul might not win," she said.
Last month, Qui, who also runs several Asian street food trailers called East Side King, was named a semifinalist for the James Beard Best Chef Southwest Award, an honor Cole won last year.
Previously this season, Qui won six out of the 12 elimination challenges, a car and a trip to Costa Rica. He'll take home an additional $125,000 as the overall winner.
In 2008, Qui was part of the Uchi team that competed with Cole on "Iron Chef America," and he is the first Texas contestant to win "Top Chef." Several of this season's episodes were filmed in noted Austin locales including the Salt Lick and the Driskill Hotel.
Qui, a native of the Philippines, moved with his family to Virginia when he was 10 and to Houston when he was 17. He moved to Austin in 2003 to attend the Texas Culinary Academy, which is now Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.