As a rope cutter I had yet to watch this 18th season of Excellent chef, but from everything I had heard (mostly from Dan Hamamura), it had been a delightfully entertaining season with a number of fan favorites including Shota and Dawn. I expected that after it aired on Bravo, the season would air on Peacock, where I couldn’t wait to binge.
But the real-world news didn’t just spoil this season’s winner. Excellent chef, but also soured the whole season as a whole. Last Thursday, Excellent chef crowned Gabe Erales as the winner despite being fired last December from his position as executive chef at a restaurant in Austin for “repeated violations of our policies and behavior in conflict with our values.”
The day after Erales’ coronation, the American statesman Austin published an article providing more details on these “repeated violations”. Erales claimed he had sex with an employee in the summer of 2020 and then cut his hours, depending on his performance, upon returning from filming. Excellent chef in November. He also spoke with her in an unprofessional manner. The owner of the Austin restaurant, however, characterized the reason he was fired differently. He said Erales was fired for “repeated violations of the company’s ethical policy regarding harassment of women.”
Erales, it seems, is a creep. Although he was fired in December, Padma Lakshmi tweeted last Friday that neither she nor the network were aware of the allegations while filming the season in October. She also asked Bravo to investigate:
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
I have no doubt that they weren’t aware of Erales’ shitty behavior last October, although I suspect they figured it out after he was fired in December (any Bravo intern browsing Reddit would have could alert them). However, acknowledging that the eventual winner of a season that had been shot but not broadcast would have been a real mess for Bravo and Excellent chef. Then again, the broadcast of a season in which the winner was revealed as a creep the day after the finale broadcast is also a mess.
This is all a mess, and while the timing of it all makes it even bigger, it’s important to note that ultimately it’s not Padma Lakshmi or Bravo’s fault or Excellent chef or one of the candidates in an otherwise excellent season (better control wouldn’t have helped either, as Erales had probably already been selected as a candidate even before the deal). The network and the show probably could have handled this better, but in the end, it’s Gabe Erales’s fault for being another shitty man, for sexually harassing his coworkers, and for behaving unprofessionally. with them.
(Dan also talks more about this in tomorrow’s episode of Podjiba.)
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