Bravo broadcast the finale of Excellent chefThursday night’s 18th season, with Austin chef Gabe Erales crowned the winner and fellow Texan chef Dawn Burrell of Houston and Shota Nakajima of Seattle as finalists. Erales’ victory was quickly eclipsed, however, as speculation about his recent dismissal from Mexican restaurant Austin Comedor circulated on social media.
Erales was fired from his position as the opening executive chef of Comedor in December 2020, two months after filming Excellent chef envelope. Restaurant partner and chef Philip Speer initially announced his departure in vague but serious terms, saying Erales had been fired for “repeated violations of our policies and behavior in conflict with our values.”
Erales, originally from El Paso, is the first Mexican-American chef to win the Bravo competition series. Prior to Comedor, he opened the Dai Due butcher / restaurant taqueria (now closed) under Jesse Griffiths. He also previously worked at the famous Noma in Copenhagen and Mexico City, as well as at Austin Fonda San Miguel, La Condesa and Geraldine’s restaurants. It was announced that Erales was competing on this final season of Excellent chef in February 2021.
Under the direction of Erales and Speer, Comedor has become a critical darling of the Austin food scene since opening in 2019 for its focus on exquisite modern Mexican cuisine and its attention to nixtamizing corn for tortillas and other dishes. . The restaurant was named as one of Squirebest new restaurants and Texas monthlybest new restaurant of 2020. Thanks to Comedor, Speer has been a strong advocate for 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 the Ben’s Friends, a national support group for substance use recovery workers.
Excellent chef Reddit panels and other anonymous online forums, meanwhile, paint a less than rosy picture of Erales’ alleged behavior at Comedor. While no one has officially made specific charges, people took to Twitter on Thursday evening to express concern and dismay over Erales’ victory. Then on the Friday morning after the episode aired, statesman reported that Erales “admitted to having consensual sex” with an employee in the summer of 2020. When he returned to the restaurant after filming the series in the fall, he cut his hours off. work “according to his performance”, but “continued to communicate[e] with it in an unprofessional way. He compared his actions to reprimand the employee to “bad decisions” that were “discriminatory”.
Excellent chef host Padma Lakshmi address comments on social media about Erales with a tweet last night, writing: “As someone who has been sexually harassed, this topic is serious and deserves to be opened up.” She claims the show was unaware of the allegations against Erales and calls on the show’s Bravo network channel to investigate what happened. Her too Noted that no allegations of sexual harassment were recorded during the filming.
As someone who has been sexually harassed, this topic is serious and deserves to be opened up.
We filmed Top Chef in October of last year and we weren’t aware of the allegations 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 alleged sexual harassment on file or otherwise to Bravo / Top Chef and we, the judges, have had no indication of Gabe’s inappropriate behavior during his time on set.
– Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) July 2, 2021
While Lakshmi says no one was aware of Erales’ mistreatment of an employee, some information was made available before the finale aired. Last month Speer said statesman that Erales was fired specifically for “harassment of women”. Erales declined to comment further with Eater beyond the statesman room. Eater has contacted Speer for further comments and information.
An anonymous Excellent chef the source said statesman that the show never thought of redoing the season, because “scrapping the entire season wouldn’t be fair to the other 14 candidate chiefs and a production team that endured the challenges of the pandemic to produce the show.” Eater also contacted Bravo and Excellent cheffrom the production company of Magical Elves to ask if an investigation will take place and, depending on the outcome, if Erales could be stripped of his Excellent chef to win. Again, no official allegations have been made.
Like this season of Excellent chef aired, Erales announced that he was opening his own Mexican restaurant in the fall of 2022 in conjunction with the Austin company Urban and Interior Real Estate. Bacalar will focus on regional dishes inspired by the Mexican state of Yucatan, where his family is from. The future restaurant is planned for the future residential development of downtown 44 East Ave Residences in the Rainey neighborhood.
The only other time a Texan chef has won Excellent chef It was 2012. It was then that Austin chef Paul Qui, who was cooking at Japanese restaurant Uchiko at the time, was declared the winner. He went on to open several restaurants, including the one of the same name, Qui, in 2013. Who was arrested in 2016 for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, then closed and opened several restaurants in Austin and Houston (including Qui). These criminal charges were dropped in 2018.
Update, 12:27 p.m .: This article, originally posted at 11:23 a.m., has been updated to reflect that Erales has declined to comment directly on Eater beyond what he shared with Statesman.