Meet The Team

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Paul Qui

Owner/Chef

Chef Paul Qui is a celebrated restauranteur, James Beard award recipient and winner of  
Bravo TV’s “Top Chef.” 

His flagship Houston restaurant Aqui serves ground-breaking southeast Asian cuisine and received 4 stars from the Houston Chronicle as one of the top culinary destinations in the U.S.  Qui also operates critically acclaimed restaurants Thai Kun (Austin), East Side King (Austin), Tacqui (Dallas) and PAO (Miami).

Originally from the Philippines, Paul Qui moved to the United States as a child and received his culinary training at Le Cordon Bleu in Austin, Texas.  He mentored under Chef Tyson Cole at Uchi and Uchiko in Austin, eventually worked his way up to become the chef de cuisine and executive chef at Uchiko. The chef routinely honors his Filipino heritage by incorporating its unique flavors throughout many of his creations.   

In 2011 he appeared on “Top Chef” Season 9, winning eight of the season’s 16 eliminations eventually winning the season.  Tom Colicchio, the head judge of Top Chef, said that Qui was “the most talented chef in the first 12 seasons of the show.”

He has also been awarded Esquire Magazine’s “Chef of the Year,” Food and Wine’s “Best New Chef,” and San Pellegrino’s “Young Chef of the Year.” 

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Jill Bartolome

Executive Sous Chef

Jill Bartolome is the Executive Sous Chef of Aqui, working closely with founder Chef Paul Qui to create the restaurant’s celebrated southeast Asian cuisine. Her vision is behind the sophisticated dessert menu and earned her a prestigious James Beard 2018 semifinalist nomination as Outstanding Pastry Chef.  Her goal is to convey a balanced and intimate expression of her culinary experiences as a first generation Filipino American.

Bartolome’s experience includes a start in Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant Cyrus as well as a Pastry Sous Chef position at acclaimed patisserie Bouchon Bakery and Executive Chef position at Common Bond.  This year she was selected as the CultureMap Tastemaker Pastry Chef of the Year.        

Her modus operandi is simple: work hard, taste everything, pet all the dogs, listen before you speak, teach others, and be honest.

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Leslie Krockenberger

Bar Manager

Leslie Krockenberger is the Bar Director of Aqui who has created the celebrated cocktail and pairing menu.  She is one of Houston’s top mixologists who helped Canard earn a spot on Playboy’s 50 New Best Bars list and developed menus for Reserve 101, Johnny’s Gold Brick, Hunky Dory, Bernadine’s and Foreign Correspondents.  

Krockenberger has traveled extensively across the U.S. and Europe refining her expertise with spirits, especially all things whiskey.  She also was a finalist in the prestigious United States Bartenders' Guild's Most Imaginative Bartender competition in 2014.  A lively personality, she has put her creative stamp at Aqui’s bar and transformed it into a cocktail destination. 

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Adam Mathews

General Manager

Adam Matthews is the General Manager of Aqui overseeing the front of the house ensuring every guest has an exemplary dining experience.  He works closely with the kitchen and bar to create the atmosphere that has made the Montrose restaurant one of the most popular dining destinations in Houston.

Prior to Aqui, he was the front of the house manager at Maketto, a Washington D.C. Bib Gourmand establishment showcasing gourmet Cambodian and Taiwanese cuisine from Chefs Erik Bruner-Yang and James Wozniak Adam Greenberg.   A veteran of the restaurant industry, Matthews has managed events  with top brands including American Express, BMW, SpaceX, and Under Armour.  

An integral part of the team, he welcomed the opportunity to become part of Houston’s up and coming food scene. The Washington D.C. native is a creative spirit who previously hosted his own podcast “Antique Black” which highlighted social and cultural news. 

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Jessica Nealis

Sous Chef