This post discusses the results of Top Chef’s recently concluded 18th season.
Texas-based Mexican chef Gabe Erales won season 18 of Top Chef, beating finalists Dawn Burrell and Shota Nakajima. But his win was deemed controversial, because he was fired from his executive chef position at Austin-based restaurant Comedor for misconduct last year. Erales’ firing in December 2020 was due to “repeated violation of our policies and for behavior in conflict with our values,” as said in a statement by Comedor co-owners Philip Speer and William Ball to The Austin Chronicle. Now, Top Chef judge and host Padma Lakshmi has responded to the allegations, clarifying that Erales’ win came two months before his firing and alleged misconduct became public knowledge.
“As someone who has been sexually harassed, this topic is a serious one and merits openness. We filmed Top Chef in October of last year & were not aware of the allegations now coming out about Gabe,” she wrote. She also noted that the allegations “should be investigated and the network should consider its best action.” She added, “No one has alleged sexual harassment on the record or otherwise to Bravo/Top Chef and we judges didn’t have any indication of inappropriate behavior from Gabe during his time on set.”
Erales also gave an interview with Austin American-Statesman to address the allegations from his point of view. According to him, he had a consensual sexual relationship with a staffer in the summer of that year, but he cut her hours after returning from filming Top Chef because of an alleged decline in her performance. “After I returned from Top Chef, I made some business decisions as a manager that affected this employee and were found to be discriminatory and I realized that those were bad decisions,” the chef explained. “I’ve spent the last six months really reflecting on these mistakes and taking the necessary steps to be a better husband, a father, a chef and a leader, through therapy, through spirituality.”
As of the time of publication, Bravo hasn’t released an official statement on whether Erales will get to remain this season’s Top Chef winner despite the allegations.