With his reputation and his future Austin restaurant on the line — along with, presumably, important elements of his personal life — Gabe Erales, the winner of the recently concluded Season 18 of “Top Chef,” has delivered a lengthy apology on Instagram. Erales’ win, after a triumphant season of the Bravo show, has been mired in controversy since news broke of his firing from Comedor, the Austin restaurant where he was head chef.
In a post on Friday, Erales wrote: “The last three weeks have been a trying time of reflection and personal growth.” He said he needed “time with my family to start the healing process before making a public statement.”
He went on to apologize to his “family, friends, staff, supporters, and my ‘Top Chef’ family,” and specifically apologize to his wife, who “has always been by my side supporting my career and our family.”
On July 1, on the show’s season finale, Erales won “Top Chef,” becoming the first Mexican American winner in the Bravo show’s 18 seasons. It had been a feel-good season full of chefs performing at the highest levels the Emmy-winning show has ever seen. It had safely filmed in Portland, Ore., in the late summer and into the fall during COVID-19, and successfully made it through the violent protests in the city and the Oregon wildfires as well.
The entire season had been a joy to watch, and Erales, a father of four from Texas, had impressed the judges throughout the competition, especially with his sauces — and particularly with his preparations of mole, the foundation of his interpretation of modern Mexican cuisine. He’d beaten the Houston-based chef Dawn Burrell and the Seattle-based Shota Nakajima in one of the toughest finales in “Top Chef” history.
But the next day, in an interview with the Austin American-Statesman, Erales admitted he’d been fired from the Austin restaurant Comedor in December, where he’d been the head chef. His termination occurred after returning home from “Top Chef.” He’d had an affair with someone who worked with him the previous summer, Erales said, and then because of performances issues, had reduced her hours. One of Erales’ bosses at Comedor, Philip Speer, told the Statesman that Erales had been fired for “repeated violations of the company’s ethics policy as it relates to harassment of women.”
On Instagram, Erales described the affair as “a consensual relationship with a co-worker.” He said after he’d been fired, “I was at the lowest point in my life — potentially losing my family while I had already lost my job.”
“I am deeply and sincerely sorry for the impact that my poor decisions had on those involved,” he continued. “My personal growth will be a perpetual apology in seeking forgiveness.”
In the Instagram comments, Erales appeared to be getting support and positive feedback.
Since the interview with the Statesman, Erales had remained silent until today. Bravo also hasn’t commented. Headlines such as Jezebel’s “Top Chef’s Feel-Good Season Collapses on Itself” and Lainey Gossip’s “Top Chef Season 18: The Discomfort of My Comfort TV” have continued to accumulate.
According to Eater Austin, Erales plans to open a new restaurant in downtown Austin called Bacalar in fall 2022, featuring cuisine from the Yucatan.
In the final slide of his apology, Erales looked toward the future.