On Thursday, Top Chef ended its Portland-based season 18 by crowning contestant Gabe Erales as its winner. Fans expressed their disappointment on social media, not only because they were rooting for finalists Shota and Dawn. As was reported late last year, Erales was fired from his executive-chef position at Austin restaurant Comedor in December 2020 due to what the ownership called “repeated violations of our policies and for behavior in conflict with our values.” In an article published by the Austin American Statesman the day after the finale, Erales admitted that after having a “consensual” sexual relationship with an employee in the summer of 2020, he cut her hours in November based on her “performance.” However, the restaurant’s co-owner, Philip Speer, told the Statesman that he “did not deem the woman’s work as sufficient reason for hours being cut,” and that “Erales was fired for repeated violations of the company’s ethics policy as it relates to harassment of women.” Redditors in the Austin restaurant community have also shared their own personal stories of inappropriate interactions with Erales.
On Friday, Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi responded to the allegations against Erales on Twitter, clarifying, “We filmed Top Chef in October of last year & were not aware of the allegations now coming out about Gabe. This should be investigated & the network should consider its best action.” Lakshmi also added that there were no reports of sexual misconduct against Erales while on set. Bravo has not yet given a statement.