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Bravo broadcast the finals of Top chefThe 18th season was crowned winner and fellow Texas chef on Thursday evening with Austin chef Gabe Erales Dawn Burrell from Houston and Shota Nakajima from Seattle as runner-up. However, Erales’s win was quickly overshadowed as speculation began to circulate on social media about his recent firing from Comedor, a Mexican restaurant in Austin.
Erales was fired from his position as head chef at Comedor in December 2020, two months after filming for Top chef wrapped up. The restaurant’s partner and chef de cuisine, Philip Speer, announced his resignation in vague but serious terms, saying Erales had been fired for „repeated violations of our policies and behavior that contradicts our values.”
Originally from El Paso, Erales is the first Mexican-American chef to win the Bravo competition series. Before Comedor, he opened the Taqueria of the butcher / restaurant Dai Due (now closed) under Jesse Griffiths. He also has before worked at the famous Noma in Copenhagen and Mexico City as well as in the restaurants Fonda San Miguel, La Condesa and Geraldine’s in Austin. It has been announced that Erales will take on this final season of Top chef in February 2021.
Under the direction of Erales and Speer, Comedor has become a critical favorite in the Austin food scene since opening in 2019 as a result of its focus on exquisite modern Mexican dishes and its attention to the nixtamalization of corn for tortillas and other dishes. The restaurant was named one of the esquire‘s best new restaurants and Texas monthly‘s best new restaurant of 2020. By comedor, Speer was a vocal advocate about the well-being and mental health of service workers. He runs a popular running club for service workers to decompress and connect with others. The restaurant also hosts the Austin Meetings of Ben’s friends, a national support group for service workers in recovery from substance use.
Top chef Reddit boards and other anonymous online forums, meanwhile, paint a less rosy picture of Erales rumored behavior at Comedor. Though no one officially made any specific allegations, folks went to twitter Thursday evening to express concern and dismay that Erales won. Then on Friday morning after the episode aired, Statesman reported that Erales „agreed to have a consensual sexual relationship” with an employee in the summer of 2020. When he returned to the restaurant in the fall after filming the series, shorten their working hours „Based on their performance”, but „communicated further”[e] with her in an unprofessional way. ”He compared his actions to reprimand the worker are „bad decisions” that are „discriminatory”.
Top chef Host Padma Lakshmi addressed Erales tweeted social media last night, saying, „As someone who has been sexually harassed, this issue is serious and deserves openness.” She claims the show was unaware of the allegations against Erales and calls on the show’s Bravo network to investigate what happened. they also noticed that no allegations of sexual harassment were recorded during filming.
As someone who has been sexually harassed, this issue is serious and deserves openness.
We filmed Top Chef last October and were unaware of the allegations that are now surfacing about Gabe.
This should be investigated and the network should consider its best action.
– Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) July 2, 2021
To be clear, no one has accused Bravo / Top Chef of sexual harassment, and we judges had no evidence of inappropriate behavior by Gabe during his time on the set.
– Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) July 2, 2021
While Lakshmi says no one knew about Erales’ mistreatment of a staff member, some information was provided prior to the final broadcast. Last month, spear told Statesman that Erales was specifically fired for „molesting women”. Erales declined to comment further with Eater on the Statesman piece. Eater has asked Speer for further comments and information.
An anonymous one Top chef source told Statesman that the series never thought of remaking the season because „dropping the entire season off would not be fair to the other 14 cooking candidates and a production team that endured the challenges of the pandemic to produce the show.” Eater has also reached out to Bravo and Top chef‘s production company Magical Elves to ask if an investigation is being conducted and, based on the outcome, whether Erales could be removed from it Top chef Victory. Again, no official allegations were made.
Since this season of Top chef Erales announced that he will be opening his own Mexican restaurant in partnership with Austin in the fall of 2022 Urban real estate and interiors. Bacalar will focus on regional dishes inspired by the Mexican state of Yucatan, which is where his family comes from. The upcoming restaurant is planned for the future 44 East Ave Residences residential complex in downtown Rainey.
The only other time a Texan chef has won Top chef was in 2012. At that time, Austin chef Paul Qui, who then cooked at Janese Restaurant Uchiko, was declared the winner. He opened several restaurants in 2013, including his namesake Qui. Arrested in 2016 for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, Qui closed and then opened several restaurants in Austin and Houston (including Qui). These criminal charges were discontinued in 2018.
Update, 12:27 p.m .: This article, originally published at 11:23 a.m., has been updated to reflect that Erales has declined to comment directly beyond what he shared with Eater Statesman.