"Top Chef: Portland" winner, Gabe Erales, was fired from a previous position for harassing a female employee.
Erales was crowned the winner of "Top Chef's" 18th season on Thursday, taking home a $250,000 cash prize.
Contestants from the recent season said the controversy "cast a cloud over that experience."
The recent winner of "Top Chef: Portland" was fired from a previous position as executive chef in December 2020 for repeatedly violating the restaurant's harassment policies, according to the Austin-American Statesman.
Gabe Erales was crowned the winner of season 18 of "Top Chef" on July 1 and received $250,000, but his celebration was short-lived after details about his previous work etiquette began to bubble to the surface of the public eye.
Erales briefly left his position at Comedor, an upscale Mexican restaurant in Austin, Texas, to film the television show from September through October of 2020. Just two months later, the Austin Chronicle reported that Erales was terminated from his job after he returned from filming.
"Effective immediately, Comedor Executive Chef Gabe Erales is no longer with the restaurant due to repeated violation of our policies and for behavior in conflict with our values," said Philip Speer and William Ball, the co-owners of Comedor, in an email from December 2020.
In an interview with the Austin-American Statesman, Erales admitted to having a "consensual sexual relationship" with a staff member at Comedor. He said that he cut the staffer's hours when he returned from taping because of her performance, but Speer told the Statesman that Erales' reasoning was insufficient.
"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. "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."
Erales' competitors and even the show's long-time host, Padma Lakshmi, have begun to comment on the situation as well. Lakshmi said that the showrunners did not know about Erales' conduct before filming but said the allegations "should be investigated & the network should consider its best action."
-Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) July 2, 2021
Fellow "Top Chef: Portland" contestant Kiki Louya detailed her stories of the sexual harassment and assault she's faced while working in the hospitality industry.
"The controversy surrounding the finale is something that deeply concerns me, and it's important that I make something very, very clear," Louya wrote, "if you have been the victim of sexual harassment or violence of any kind, you are not alone. This industry must stop celebrating abusers."
Brittany Anderson, another season 18 competitor, posted a similar message to Instagram. She said that controversy surrounding the finale "cast a cloud over that experience."
"I hope that 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," Anderson wrote.
Louya and Anderson both received support from fellow chefs for speaking out on Instagram including from this season's runner-up, Shota Nakajima.
Read the original article on Insider