We've Got Hollywood Covered
|

‘Top Chef’ Season 18 Finale: And the Winner Is…

Was it Dawn Burrell, Gabe Erales or Shota Nakajima who walked away with the title of Top Chef?

“Top Chef” Season 18 has placed its chef’s hat on a winner: Congratulations to Gabe Erales!

The victor of the 18th season of Bravo’s cooking competition, which took place in Portland, Oregon, amid the pandemic, was announced on Thursday’s finale episode. The installment featured a three-way showdown between “Top Chef: Portland” finalists Dawn Burrell, Gabe Erales and Shota Nakajima, who each prepared an epic spread for the judges and some special guests at Willamette Valley Vineyards.

After 13 grueling episodes of competition, which whittled down the Season 18 contestants from a group of 15 to this trio, Dawn, Gabe and Shota were given the assignment to serve up the best four-course meal of their lives for their final challenge.

The meals were served to “Top Chef” host Padma 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. Former winners Melissa King and Richard Blais joined the judges one last time to deliberate and crown the next Top Chef, which turned out to be Gabe Erales.

Gabe Erales is the first ever Mexican contestant to win “Top Chef.”

See below for the bios of each of the “Top Chef” Season 18 finalists.

Dawn Burrell

Olympian turned Chef, Dawn Burrell’s world travels with USA’s Track & Field team ignited her deep love for the language of food. After competing in the 2000 Summer Olympics, Dawn traded in her track spikes for a full-time culinary career and enrolled in Culinary Arts at the Art Institute of Houston. She cut her teeth with a variety of chefs, including Chef Tom Aikens in London and Houston’s Monica Pope, before landing a gig at Tyson Cole’s Uchi in Houston. Chef Dawn went on to become the sous chef at Uchi’s award-winning sister restaurant, Uchiko, in Austin. An Executive Chef title at modern Southern restaurant Kulture followed where she honed her signature “global comfort” cooking style and earned her first James Beard nomination for “Best Chef: Texas” in 2020. She departed during the pandemic and recently joined Chef Chris Williams’ Lucille’s Hospitality Group as Partner/Executive Chef of her very first proprietary concept exploring Afro-Asian cuisine.

Gabe Erales

Chef Gabe Erales was born and raised in the culturally rich border town of El Paso, TX. Heavily influenced by his family’s Mexican culture, Gabe formed an early appreciation for the food his parents prepared which ignited his passion for cooking. Gabe began working in kitchens at the age of 15 before moving to Austin, TX, to attend college at the University of Texas where he graduated with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. During this time, Gabe realized his true calling remained in the kitchen and concurrently completed culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu Austin. As the soul of his cooking lies in Mexican cuisine, he spent time working for some of Austin’s most notable Chefs such as the late Miguel Ravago at The Fonda San Miguel, Rene Ortiz at La Condesa and Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due. He also draws inspiration from his experience in the kitchen at Noma in both Copenhagen and Mexico. Gabe’s cooking philosophy strives to focus on locality through strength in relationships with local farmers including sourcing unique varieties of landrace corn, chiles and other ingredients from different regions of Mexico.  Most recently, he served as Executive Chef of Comedor Restaurant, a Mexican restaurant in the heart of downtown Austin, TX, that was voted Best New Restaurant by Esquire Magazine (2019), Austin Monthly (2019), and Texas Monthly (2020). Married with four children, he is currently working on a new Mexican-inspired restaurant concept, called Bacalar, opening in the Rainey Street District of Austin in Fall 2022. Erales recently launched his scholarship program, Niños de Maíz, with The Culinary Institute of America. He is currently a contestant on Season 18 of Bravo’s Top Chef. To learn more about Chef Erales and his accolades, visit gabeerales.com.

Shota Nakajima

Born in Japan and raised in Seattle, Shota Nakajima began his culinary journey at age 16 working for a highly acclaimed sushi restaurant. At age 18 he moved to Osaka, Japan to learn the art of Japanese cuisine from Michelin Star rated Chef Yasuhiko Sakamoto, an experience that greatly changed Shota’s perspective on hospitality, cooking and his approach to food. Developing his own meticulous and imaginative culinary detail, and a stringent demand for high-quality, Shota set out to expand Japanese cuisine in the United States by bringing a fresh perspective on approachable Japanese comfort food through his two restaurants, Taku and Adana. A James Beard Award semi-finalist for three years running, Shota seizes every opportunity to get outside and forage or fish, taking advantage of the abundance of wild goods in Washington’s mountains and waters.