Former Comedor Executive Chef Gabe Erales won the 18th season of Bravo’s “Top Chef” on Thursday night, a crowning glory of the preeminent cooking competition TV show.
As Erales’ star rose, details revealed that the Michelin-starred chef was fired in 2020 from the modern Mexican restaurant for violating the restaurant’s policies on harassment and discrimination. Although members of the “Top Chef” production team knew the details of the layoff, both through conversations with restaurant management and Erales, Bravo continued to broadcast the season featuring a winner who was fired just a few weeks after the show ended filming.
In December 2020, Erales did not respond to a request from the American statesman for the dismissal, but the El Paso native, who helped make the sophisticated downtown restaurant a top spot. 10 of the Austin360 Dining Guide in 2019, as well as honors. of Texas Monthly and Esquire magazine, confirmed details of his dismissal with the US statesman this week.
2019 review:Comedor’s sophistication unmatched in Austin’s Mexican dining scene
Erales admitted to having consensual sex with a female member of his kitchen staff in the summer of 2020 – then cutting off her hours in November after returning from recording the kings making cookery show in Portland in September and October. Erales said he cut the woman’s hours based on her performance, although Comedor’s chief partner Philip Speer told the US statesman he did not consider the work of the woman as a sufficient reason for the reduction of hours.
Upon the chef’s departure in December, the owners of the Comedor said Erales had been fired “due to a violation of our policies and behavior that conflicted with our values.” In June, Speer told the Statesman that Erales had been fired for repeated violations of the company’s ethics policy regarding harassment of women.
“After I came back from ‘Top Chef’ I made business decisions as a manager that affected this employee and was found to be discriminatory and I realized these were bad decisions,” Erales told the Statesman this week. “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.”
Erales told the American statesman that although his physical relationship ended with the kitchen worker upon his return from Portland, he continued to communicate with her in an unprofessional manner.
The statesman does not name the employee due to the nature of the allegations. She declined to comment for this story.
A spokesperson for “Top Chef” declined to comment for this story. However, a source close to “Top Chef”, who requested anonymity because she was not authorized to comment publicly, told the American-Statesman that the show learned from Comedor in December that Erales had been fired for violating the restaurant’s harassment policy. but said the restaurant had not provided further details about the dismissal.
The source said Erales told the production team that he had a consensual relationship with a member of his kitchen crew, a relationship Erales told them ended in August, and that ‘Erales said he subsequently reduced the employee’s hours. The source said that in addition to a pre-casting background check, the company examined Erales’ behavior on the set of “Top Chef”, found no problematic behavior and decided to continue broadcasting. the show as planned.
There was no consideration of recutting the season, according to the source, who added that deleting the entire season would not be fair to the other 14 candidate chiefs and a production team that has endured the challenges of the pandemic for produce the show.
Asked about the details of the show’s discovery of information about Erales’ dismissal and why the “Top Chef” season was allowed to air in the spring despite knowledge of his dismissal, a Bravo’s word said the network had made no comment.
The revelations come amid a nationwide report on sexual harassment of female employees in various industries. A recent survey of women who work as waiters, bartenders or in other roles in the food industry found that 70% of them said they had been sexually harassed by their employers, co-workers or customers, according to a CBS article. News.
Erales, who plans to open the Yucatan-inspired Bacalar restaurant on Rainey Street in fall 2022, says he believes manager-employee relationships “are very damaging to a work environment and certainly impact success. of a business, especially a kitchen, “adding that” in the future, my position in a restaurant as an authority figure is important and I know that to improve our industry, creating an environment Positive, non-toxic work begins with a plan of checks and balances that must be in place before the doors open.
The recently golden TV star, whose only previous job as an executive chef came during a short stint at Dai Due Taqueria in Fareground, says he has never had sex with other employees who reported directly to him at the Comedor or any other restaurant. He says his dismissal served as a growing moment for him to focus on his responsibilities as an “honest husband and focused leader.”
“I am even more grateful to the management team for applying their core values in order to maintain a safe working environment, as I would not have been able to meet my personal challenges if this had not happened” , Erales said.
The “Top Chef” winner receives $ 250,000 from sponsor S.Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, an article in “Food & Wine” magazine and an appearance at the “Food & Wine” Classic in Aspen.