Texas-based chef Gabe Erales won the title “Top Chef” Thursday night—and it’s already leaving a bad taste in the mouths of some fans of the enduring reality TV cooking contest.
While some publicized his victory on social media, others found it problematic that the former executive chef of Comedars of Austin—who was fired in December”repeated violations“Restaurant Policies—claimed the grand prize of $250,000.
In Bravo’s Portland, Oregon-based finale of the show’s 18th season, 40-year-old Erales was crowned the winner, with fellow Texas chef Don Burrell of Houston and Shota Nakajima of Seattle as runners-up.
It was announced that Erales was competing on “Top Chef” in February 2021. However, as the season progressed, rumors began to spread that she had been canned from a Mexican eatery for violating the restaurant policy on harassment and discrimination. Some social media watchdogs were not impressed after the distasteful controversy was discovered.
an angry fan said, “Okay, but it’s really irresponsible for Gabe to be fired from his job for the real #topchef and not to address the allegations against him. I just discovered this today, and people like me are watching and (I haven’t) been rooting for him all season long without any thought.”
As online speculation began to intensify, “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi took to Twitter to reveal her stand.
“As someone who has been sexually assaulted, this topic is a serious matter and deserves openness,” Lakshmi, 50, said. “We filmed Top Chef in October last year and were no longer aware of the allegations that had surfaced about Gabe. It should be investigated and the network should consider its best course of action.”
“To be clear, no one on record or otherwise has accused Bravo/Top Chef of sexual harassment and we the judges have pointed to no indication of inappropriate behavior from Gabe during his time on set,” Lakshmi added.
A network representative for “Top Chef” declined to comment when asked if there would be a reaction to fan reaction. However, an insider close to the show directed The Post an Austin-American Statesman The report reveals how the production team knew the details about the firing from conversations with restaurant management and Erales.
The local outlet said that an anonymous “Top Chef” source alleged that Erales admitted he had engaged in “consensual sex” with a kitchen employee—and later cut his hours based on work performance. . The source also added that the makers did a background check on Erales and noticed his behavior on set, but found nothing problematic.
No specific charges have officially been filed against Arales — and the new “Top Chef” has publicly denied having sex with his employees at Commodore or any other restaurant.
Run by partner William Ball and chef Philippe Speer, the Comedore garnered accolades as if one of them was named Esquire’s Best New Restaurants and Texas Monthly The best new restaurants of 2020 Under Erales.
However, Spears told the Statesman that Erales was let go “because of his behavior in violation of our policies and in conflict with our values”. He later said more specifically that he repeatedly violated the company’s ethics policy regarding harassment of women. Erales, who did not respond to inquiries from the outlet about his firing in December 2020, finally confirmed his termination last week.
Since the show was pre-taped months earlier, Erales was let go of his executive chef job at Commodore After the The show had already declared him the winner of the season.
As per the source, re-shooting the series was not considered, as “finishing the entire season would not be fair to the other 14 Chef contestants and a production team that faced the challenges of the pandemic to produce the show.” “
Erales. were absent from the episodes after the finale of “See What Happens Live With Andy Cohen” Thursday nights — a tradition in which “Top Chefs” sit down with Andy Cohen to discuss their journey throughout the season with the judges.
The Portland season culminated in the Willamette Valley, where chefs were tasked with preparing a four-course meal. The finalists were paired with Chef who returned after ending earlier in the season.
For the first course, Arales made Fried Cochinita Pibil Head Cheese with Habanero Ash Emulsion Avocado Mousse and Kumquat Sauce. He marinated scallop aguachile with fermented pineapple and roasted pineapple oil for the second course. His third course consisted of short rib with chicillo negro mole, mushrooms and pickled persimmons, while his final dish was candied delicata squash with Café Mexicano ice cream.
Erales, who hails from El Paso, is the first Mexican-American chef to win “Top Chef.” He previously opened the now closed Dai Due Taqueria under Jesse Griffiths. He also previously worked at Noma in Copenhagen and Mexico City. Before becoming executive chef at Commodore, he worked at other Austin restaurants such as Fonda San Miguel, La Condesa and Geraldine.
He announced during the season that he was opening a new Mexican restaurant called Bacalar in the fall of 2022 in collaboration with Austin company Urban Real Estate and Interiors. The menu will feature regional cuisine inspired by the Mexican state of Yucatán.
“Going forward, my position as an authority figure in a restaurant is an important one and I know that in order to improve our industry, creating a positive non-toxic work environment begins with planning for checks and balances. Which requires space before the doors open,” Erales told the Statesman.