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On Thursday, June 30th, just before most Americans were about to leave for the Independence Day holidays, the cooking competition show became Bravo Top Chef: Portland Austin chef Gabe Erales named his 18th season winner. The next morning, all the allegations were on the news that Erales had molested a woman in his previous restaurant, Comedor.
According to eater AustinErales left Comedor after the chef admitted he had a „consensual sexual relationship” with a restaurant employee in the summer of 2020. After he finished filming Top chef and when the restaurant returned a few months later, he reduced the woman’s working hours and „kept communicating”[e] with her in an unprofessional way. ”Erales said that Austin American statesman that he made “bad decisions” that were “discriminatory” against the employee.
And, of course, because Erales won, it means Houston’s own Dawn Burrell couldn’t take the trophy home with her. As Eater reported before the season finale, it was clear that Top chefThe judges quickly took a liking to Erales’ take on Mexican cuisine. But after more than a dozen key challenges, it was also clear that Dawn Burrell deserved to be recognized as the next top chef. The same could be said for excellent chef from Seattle, Shota Nakajima, but of course we’re pulling here for the home team.
Throughout the season, Burrell proved that she is an incredibly talented cook and strong contender for victory, who approaches every challenge with a tough fighting spirit. She illuminated the kitchens of the African diaspora and their hometown and executed them (mostly) flawlessly. Sometimes that diversity of influence proved to be their downfall – there were several episodes last season where Burrell failed to put one or more elements of their dish on the plate. In the context of the competition it was at times too ambitious.
Most importantly, she is not currently being accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a restaurant employee. Gastronomy has one long story To support cooks, especially male cooks who are accused of abusive behavior in and outside of their establishments. By stripping Erales of his title now, it would send a strong message that this type of behavior will not be rewarded with a check for $ 250,000 and a large, fancy spread in Food & Wine Magazine.
In one statement posted on her Twitter account, Top chef Presenter Padma Lakshmi made it clear that the show’s producers were unaware of the allegations against Erales. „As someone who has been sexually harassed, this issue is serious and deserves openness,” wrote Lakshmi. “We filmed Top Chef last October and didn’t know that the allegations against Gabe were now being made. This should be investigated and the network should consider its best actions. ”
But loud Austin American statesman, The show’s producers were aware that Erales had been fired from his Comedor restaurant in Austin for violating the restaurant’s harassment policy. An anonymous source told the Per that Bravo, the network that airs Top chefHe „never” considered re-shooting the season because it would allegedly not be fair to the other candidates on the show.
In a way, that rationale actually makes sense. But what really isn’t fair is that the work that is Burrell and Nakajima and all the other chefs did it last season – in the midst of a pandemic, mind you – is overshadowed by the bad behavior of a man who took the prize home.
Unsurprisingly, Burrell infinitely gracious After the finale aired, they paid tribute to the show’s judges and its competitors, particularly Las Vegas chef Jamie Tran, who was invited to Burrell in Houston for their recent anniversary dinner. She admitted her mistakes, celebrated her victories, and generally proved why she’s the real winner this season.
“What I know about myself is that I NEVER give up. Ever. I will get through any situation and still do my best, regardless of the outcome, ”wrote Burrell. “With the same determination, I will continue to push boundaries. My pursuit of excellence is endless. What I’ve learned: I have to keep working. It is perfectly true that sometimes less is more. Cooking confidently is the key. ”
It is unclear whether Bravo or not Top chef The production company Magical Elves will conduct any type of investigation into Erales’ behavior. It’s likely that this story will be over in a couple of weeks, just in time for the next chef to be charged with molestation or misconduct. Now more than four years in the #MeToo movement, after the collapse of empires run by restaurant personalities accused of abuse like Mario Batali, John Besh, and Ken Friedman, it is deeply disturbing that a person credibly accused of harassment can still win one of the most prominent culinary competitions.
Until the culinary industry is ready to draw meaningful consequences for bad actors, these patterns will continue. The concerns of victims of harassment, who come forward at great personal and professional risk, continue to be pushed aside as less important than the culinary “geniuses” who have abused them.
And sure, Dawn Burrell’s coronation as a real top chef this season won’t solve the pervasive nuisance problem facing the hospitality industry. What it can do, however, is recognize the achievements of an infinitely talented cook who has proven her talents to be equally worthy of that honor. The show would also do well to take Lakshmi’s advice and open an investigation into how exactly this happened in the first place.