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Top Chef season 18 winner Gabe Erales has issued an apology for his personal and professional conduct following news in early July that he was fired from Austin restaurant Comedor over violations of the company’s ethics policy around sexual harassment.
In the lengthy statement posted to his Instagram on Friday, the chef acknowledged having an affair and addressed his silence around the controversy.
“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,” he said. “To say that I am sorry that I let my family, friends, staff, supporters and my Top Chef family down may feel like an understatement, but it’s the first step and a genuine start on my road to making amends.”
He later continued, “I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to be a part of Top Chef; however I must continue to acknowledge my mistakes including the termination from my former job. To clarify, unbeknownst to my wife, I had a consensual relationship with a co-worker and later reduced her work hours, which in combination was a poor judgment call and led to my termination after I filmed Top Chef.”
The statement offers a personal apology to Erales’ wife, along with promises of self-reflection and better conduct in the future. Erales also states that he is working to atone “with the help of therapy and spirituality.”
“I recognize that part of an executive chef role is to set the culture and uphold the values of the restaurant,” he wrote. “I am committed to doing the personal and professional work every day to create a positive and safe environment in whatever follows for me professionally.”
News of Erales’ firing was initially reported back in December by multiple local outlets, including the Austin American-Statesman family of websites. At the time, Erales declined to comment, but in June, responded to the Statesman for a story published on July 3, a day after he was crowned winner of the Bravo reality show’s latest season.
The contents of the social media post echo the statement given to the Austin newspaper for their July 3 story, in which Erales admits to having “made some bad business decisions as a manager” after returning from his run on the Bravo series, which affected the unnamed member of the Comedor kitchen staff and “were found to be discriminatory.” Erales said that his decision to cut her hours was due to the employee’s work performance.
The Austin American-Statesman reported that the network was aware of Erales firing due the Comedor’s harassment policy during production, according to an anonymous source close to the show, but a Bravo spokesperson declined to comment.
Back in December, the Comedor’s ownership attributed Erales departure to a more broad violation of policies and for “behavior in conflict with our values.” But a follow-up statement provided by chef-partner Philip Speer to the Austin American-Statesman for their July 3 story clarified that the Top Chef winner’s firing was over repeated violations of the company’s ethics policies specifically related to harassment of women. It was also reported that Speer did not deem the employee’s work as “sufficient reason for hours being cut.”
Following the airing of the season 18 finale and the news of Erales’ firing, Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi called for an investigation over Twitter before clarifying in a follow-up tweet that “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.”
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.
— Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) July 2, 2021
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Bravo for comment.
Several past Top Chef contestants also spoke out after details around the nature of Erales’ firing emerged. In a post shared to her Instagram, Top Chef: Portland contestant Kiki Louya addressed the news around her fellow season 18 contestant, sharing her own experiences with sexual harassment in an industry where “the behavior is so normalized.”
“The controversy surrounding the finale is something that deeply concerns me, and it’s important that I make something very, very clear: if you have been the victim of sexual harassment or violence of any kind, you are not alone. This industry must stop celebrating abusers,” she wrote.a
Brittany Anderson, who also appeared on the Bravo reality series during Erales’ season, posted on her Instagram that she hopes “Bravo uses their platform to spread awareness about sexual harassment and discrimination so more victims feel that they can share their stories and that chefs and culinary leaders realize that their actions have repercussions.”
Erales is an El Paso native and the first Mexican-American chef to win the Bravo competition series. It was reported back in April that Erales was slated to open his first restaurant, Bacalar, in downtown Austin with a planned opening of fall 2022.
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