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‘Top Chef’ Winner Apologizes for ‘Poor Judgement Call’ After Sexual Misconduct Scandal

Gabe Erales was fired as executive chef of the Austin restaurant Comedor in December

“Top Chef” winner Gabe Erales has issued a new apology amid his sexual misconduct scandal, admitting to past inappropriate behavior with an employee and committing to “personal growth.”

“I have been silent not because I thought it would go away, but because I needed time with my family to start the healing process before making a public statement,” Erales wrote in a post shared to Instagram on Friday. “To say I am sorry that I let my family, friends, staff, supporters, and my Top Chef family down may feel like an understatement at this moment, but it’s the first step and a genuine start on my road to making amends.”

Erales was let go as the executive chef of Comedor, a high-end Mexican restaurant in Austin, Texas, last December after he returned from filming “Top Chef.” The Austin American-Statesman later reported that Erales was fired for cutting the hours of an employee with whom he had a sexual relationship and engaging in “inappropriate communication” with her after that relationship ended.

Erales admitted to the actions in his post, calling the decision to cut the employee’s hours a “poor judgment call.”

“I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on these mistakes and taking the necessary steps to be a better husband, father, chef and leader, with the help of therapy and spirituality,” he wrote. “I recognize that part of an executive chef role is to set the culture and uphold the values of the restaurant. I am committed to doing the personal and professional work every day to create a positive and safe work environment in whatever follows for me professionally.”

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.

Host Padma Lakshmi called for an investigation into Erales’s behavior earlier this month after the Austin American-Statesman report was published. “As someone who has been sexually harassed, this topic is a serious one and merits openness,” she wrote, later adding that there were no reports of misconduct during his time on the show.