“Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi called for an investigation into Season 18 winner Gabe Erales after allegations of misconduct were resurfaced following his victory this week.
In December 2020, Eater Austin reported that Erales was let go as the executive chef of Comedor, a high-end Mexican restaurant. Citing an email from chef and partner Philip Speer, the website reported Erales was discharged because of “repeated violations of our policies and for behavior in conflict with our values.” No further details were given at the time.
But on Friday, the Austin American-Statesman reported that Erales was fired after cutting the hours of an employee with whom he had a sexual relationship and engaging in “inappropriate communication” with her after that relationship ended.
“After I returned from ‘Top Chef,’ I made some business decisions as a manager that affected this employee and were found to be discriminatory and I realized that those were bad decisions,” Erales told the Statesman in a statement. “I’ve spent the last six months really reflecting on these mistakes and taking the necessary steps to be a better husband, a father, a chef and a leader, through therapy, through spirituality.”
After Erales’ victory, many “Top Chef” fans tweeted about the incident, prompting Lakshmi to respond.
“As someone who has been sexually harassed, this topic is a serious one and merits openness,” Lakshmi tweeted. “We filmed Top Chef in October of last year & were not aware of the allegations now coming out about Gabe. This should be investigated & the network should consider its best action.”
She added in a follow-up tweet, “To be clear, no one has alleged sexual harassment on the record or otherwise to Bravo/Top Chef and we judges didn’t have any indication of inappropriate behavior from Gabe during his time on set.”
A rep for Bravo did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Erales emerged victorious in the pandemic season of “Top Chef,” defeating chefs Dawn Burrell of Houston and Shota Nakajima of Seattle. The final meals were served to Lakshmi, head judge Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons, along with this season’s All-Star dining panel, and a few additional noteworthy guests, including Tiffany Derry, Peter Cho and Naomi Pomeroy.
Erales is the first ever Mexican contestant to win “Top Chef.”