Paul Qui (right) standing in front of his original food trailer, with his partner,
Motoyasu Utsunomiya. © Jay B Sauceda
Organizers for Austin’s massive annual music, film and technology festival, South by Southwest (which kicks off Friday), tapped Top Chef: Texas winner and former Uchiko executive chef Paul Qui to curate a selection of 16 food trucks for SouthBites, the event’s first official food court. Qui currently operates three East Side King trucks, and last December he parlayed their success into a brick-and-mortar restaurant. When choosing businesses for the project, he looked for diversity beyond hot dogs and burgers, such as the famous Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and South African local favorite Cazamance. Here, Qui reveals the secrets to operating a fantastic food truck and his picks for the best food at SouthBites.
PAUL QUI's 5 TIPS FOR RUNNING A FOOD TRUCK
Pretend it’s a real restaurant. “If you’re working in a truck, you should treat it like you’re working it a kitchen,” says Qui. “I traveled to Japan last year, and they have hundreds of restaurants in these little streets around the train stations. They’re pretty much the size of a food truck. All these restaurateurs are cooking out of tiny kitchens, with one area that’s all yakitori, or one that’s all tempura. In a lot of ways, I feel like good food trucks are kind of like that.”