Despite having filmed during the global shutdown of 2020, the 18th season of Top Chef has been hailed as one of the show’s best. Season 18 was notably diverse and shone a light on local food and cooking that is often under-represented in the fine-dining world.
The last three competitors – Dawn Burrell, Shota Nakajima, and Gabe Erales – each brought a rich and varied culinary background to the final challenge.
However, ever since Top Chef: Portland announced its winner, Gabe Erales, the response on social media has been mixed. It turns out that there are some allegations against Gabe that have resurfaced, which revolve around his firing from the last restaurant at which he worked.
So, was Top Chef’s latest winner Gabe fired for sexual harassment?
What are the sexual harassment allegations against 'Top Chef' Season 18 winner Gabe Erales?
Top Chef named Gabe Erales, a Texas-based chef known for Mexican cuisine (and a lot of moles), as its Season 18 winner. However, since the finale aired and Gabe was crowned Top Chef, the reactions online have been mixed.
While some fans are happy about the outcome and have been congratulating Gabe on his victory, others have pointed out some troubling details about his recent past.
Online commenters were quick to bring up an article from The Austin Chronicle, which announced Gabe’s exit from his job heading up the Comedor, a high-end Mexican restaurant in Austin.
The article quotes an email announcement from the restaurant’s other chef and partner, Phillip Speer, which stated that Gabe had to leave because of “repeated violations of our policies and for behavior in conflict with our values.”
When the Austin Chronicle reached out for clarifications, Phillip did not detail exactly what the allegations were but told the publication that although it was a tough decision, “There were behaviors that went against our company policy that was clearly stated, [and] a major conflict of our core values." He said, "I believe that radical change starts with radical action."
There still hasn’t been any confirmation of whether the allegations against Gabe were sexual in nature, but since the reports have resurfaced, Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi has put out a statement via Twitter in which she says that although the production was unaware of the allegations while filming in October 2020, the network should investigate and take appropriate action.
Guest judge and Portland native Gregory Gourdet also put out a statement on his Instagram. Although he didn’t address the controversy surrounding Gabe directly, Gregory clearly speaks out against “toxic conditions in kitchens” in which "womxn in our industry [are] continually suffering the most.” He ends with a call for change and the end of the “power-hungry, abusive, egomaniacal chef.”