Zao was a Veknoid Jedi Master during the Old Republic about the time of the Battle of Naboo. Blind in both eyes, Zao was not only a Jedi Knight, but a Jedi chef as well, attempting to cook things that are in balance with one another, and an individual's reaction to his cooking told him much about their standing in the Force. Additionally, Zao constructed and unconventional lightsaber, making his out of his walking stick, a nice surprise for any foe. Adopting the metaphor that he was 'a leaf blown by the Force', Zao went wherever he felt the Force was telling him to go. On one occasion, Zao felt that his place was on the prison planet of Kiffex, for what reason he did not know why. Disguising himself as a cook on one of the planet's gathering holes for the exiled prisoners, Zao waited until the purpose of his visit to be revealed to him.
That purpose soon came to light as Jedi Knights Quinlan Vos and his former master, Jedi Master Tholme, found their way to Kiffex, and to Zao's establishment. However the presence of Jedi Knights was enough to incite the criminals to rise up against the Jedi and soon Zao, Quinlan, and Tholme were forced to defend themselves in the bar. The battle proved easy enough for three Jedi, but they soon realized that the fight was merely a diversion. Soon the bar was attacked by feral Anzati led by Quinlan Vos' former Padawan, Aayla Secura. The degenerate Anzati attacked the bar with a ferociousness even more extreme than typical Anzati. Snatching up patrons, criminals, the Anzati took them to their nesting area to keep them for a later feeding, at the head of the group being Vos' Padawan.
Quinlan Vos who had been searching for his Aayla was adamant about finding her, for he believed he could still save her. Following the Anzati on speeder bikes, Zao and Tholme followed Quinlan through the forests of Kiffex, accompanied by the Devaronian scoundrel, Vilmarh Grahrk who they had made acquaintances with along the way. Following the Anzati's trail, eventually they were deep in their occupied territory. Hidden among the trees, they launched an ambush, attacking Zao, Tholme, Quinlan, and Vilmarh. Managing to capture Quinlan and Vilmarh, they took them back to their lair, and bound them in a sort of web, so that they could not escape.