Illustration for the article titled Top Chef's Wellness Season is Collapsing on Itself

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When chef Gabriel Erales won the Excellent chef title, it was like a momentous occasion. He’s spent the entire season cooking lofty reinterpretations of traditional Mexican cuisine and earned his merits on his molé, and was one of three color finalists who all cooked meals specific to their heritage. It is The best chefs first Mexican winner, and during his confessional after the victory, he paid tribute to the thousands of Mexican cooks who advance the restaurant industry. This victory was for them, Erales said.

But the morning after Erales was appointed Excellent chefthe winner, the Austin American-Stateman posted an interview with Erales that eviscerated all the warm and hazy feelings of his victory. Prior to being cast on the show, Erales was executive chef at the restaurant Comedor in Austin, Texas, whom he mentioned several times during his talking head scenes. According to statesman, he was fired shortly after returning from filming “for violating restaurant policies on harassment and discrimination.”

By her own admission, Erales, who is married, had sex with a member of her staff in the summer of 2020, before filming Excellent chef in Portland, Oregon. Upon his return, their physical relationship ended but he “continued to communicate with her in an unprofessional manner”, the statesman reports. Eventually, Erales slashed the woman’s dining hours, calling it a “business decision” and citing poor performance. However, Philip Speer, chef and co-owner of Comedor, claimed there was no performance-based reason to cut this particular woman’s hours. Speer also confirmed to statesman that Erales was fired for “repeated violations of the company’s ethical policy regarding the harassment of women”.

When asked for comment by Jezebel, Erales declined to elaborate on his statement to the statesman. He told the newspaper:

After my return from Excellent chef I made business decisions as a manager that affected this employee that were found to be discriminatory and realized they were bad decisions. I have spent the last six months really reflecting on these mistakes and taking the necessary steps to be a better husband, father, leader and leader, through therapy, through spirituality.

I am even more grateful to the management team [of Comedor] for upholding their core values ​​in order to maintain a safe working environment, as I would not have been able to meet my personal challenges if it had not been for this.

Bravo also declined to comment.

A source close to the production told Jezebel that the show’s network and producers were not aware of any allegations against Erales before they cast him on the show. According to the source, Excellent chef producers were told he was fired for violating restaurant policies in December before the show aired, but the restaurant did not provide specific details of the policies Erales violated. Padma Lakshmi tweeted a similar statement last Thursday.

From the start of the show to his grand finale, Erales was billed as a good, unlucky guy looking to make an impact on the food industry for the sake of his family and all chefs like him who’ve never had a job. good shot. The editing choices made by the producers worked to perfectly amplify this narrative. A a few well-placed musical notes and the right fit make the difference between a show villain and a show hero. Erales was, without a doubt, an on-screen hero, like most of the chief testers this season. The pandemic has ravaged the catering and the theme of the rally to save an entThe fire industry was palpable throughout the season.

But as is the truth with so many men being portrayed as heroes, the truth didn’t fit the story. Erales always tries to keep the image Excellent chef created for him; he said to statesman, “I have spent the past six months really reflecting on these mistakes and taking the necessary steps to be a better husband, father, leader and leader, through therapy, through spirituality.”

Of course, Erales’ actions did not take place in a vacuum. the The restaurant industry is rife with allegations of sexual harassment and the men who run kitchens that discriminate against women. The call of Excellent chef it is because he feels separated from this dark world of abusive leaders. It is a sanitized place where the food and the description of the food are all that matters and the worst thing a person can hear is, “Pack your knives”.

Erales broke the imaginary fifth wall, and through its cracks you can see the ugly side of the restaurant industry reappearing. He will still get the prize he was promised on the show and, according to his Instagram account, will open his own restaurant next fall. Erales told the statesman he will be a better leader in the future and seeks to create a “positive and non-toxic work environment” in his new position.

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