‘Top Chef’ Contestants Talk About How Bravo Handled Chef Gabe Erales’ Win

a recent New York Times article about the new season of top boss includes details of how the contestants responded to the aftermath of the season 18 finale. Shortly after the episode aired, and Austin chef Gabe Erales was named the winner, it was revealed that Erales was fired from the trendy Mexican restaurant Comedor due to sexual harassment during his time at work.

The New York Times spoke to contestants who said Erales did not misbehave during filming, but disagreed with how the network and production company Bravo and Magical Elves dealt with what happened.

Detroit chef Kiki Louya, who competed on the same season, told the publication that she felt as if a press representative from Bravo’s parent company NBCUniversal, who called her about Erales, was working to “protect[ing] the brand at all costs”, which disappointed her because the show has a good platform to address these issues and the potential to bring about real change in the industry.

The New York Times also reported that due to non-disclosure agreements, no past top boss the contestants can say anything about the filming of the show. The Magic Elves told the Times that after Erales’ season, he added a “morality clause” to contracts, “expanded the referral pool” for potential contestants, and “hired an outside human resources firm to help with casting.”

In 2019, Erales was the opening Executive Chef for Comedor, which garnered accolades across the state. Then, in December 2020, he was fired for “repeated violations of our policies and behavior in conflict with our values,” chef and partner Philip Speer explained in an email at the time to Eater.

In February 2021, Bravo announced that Erales would compete on the show’s 18th season, which was filmed in the fall of 2020 before being fired. Despite Speer’s statement, there was speculation in the Austin community and anonymous online forums about the details of Erales’ behavior.

When Erales won the final in July 2021, Statesman reported more details about why he was fired from Comedor, including “a consensual sexual relationship with a female member of his kitchen staff in the summer of 2020, and then cut back on his hours in November.”

After the Statesman article was published, top boss host Padma Lakshmi reclaimed that she was not aware of the accusations against Erales and wanted the chain to investigate what happened. Statesman also reported that an anonymous source who worked at top boss shared that there was “no problematic behavior” on set and that the show never thought of cutting the season around Erales again because “scrapping the entire season wouldn’t be fair to the other 14 contestant chefs and a production team that endured the challenges of the pandemic to produce the show.”

In March 2022, top boss Host Tom Colicchio was asked about Erales in an interview conducted by the daily beast. When asked how she felt when she found out what really happened with Erales in Comedor, she replied that “it’s a thing of the past.” When pressed further on the matter, she said that “this certainly didn’t rise to the occasion for some of the other chefs” and that “we never heard from the woman he had an affair with and it was a consensual affair.” . In short, she said that it is “unfortunate that complaints like this are made, because [Gabe] he is a very talented chef and he won his season. You can’t take that away from him.” Colicchio likened the situation to his relationship with his wife when she was a waitress at her restaurant that she had a “no fraternization policy,” saying she assumed the same thing happened with Erales.

Erales is currently opening two Austin restaurants in downtown Austin this year, a Mexican restaurant called Bacalar, which he announced as soon as his winning episode aired, and a cafe with tacos, fresh water, and coffee called Tomalo in the upcoming development. at 44 East Avenue in Rainey.

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
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