Chef Gabe Erales has found himself in hot water since being crowned the winner of Top Chef earlier this month.
After being accused of sexual harassment, Erales is now telling his side of the story. In a July 23 Instagram post, he confessed that he was fired from his restaurant job in Austin, Texas, after having an extramarital affair.
"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 judgement call and led to my termination after I filmed Top Chef," he wrote.
Erales went on, "I was suddenly 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. My personal growth will be a perpetual apology in seeking forgiveness."
After the finale aired on July 1, viewers discovered that Erales had been fired as an executive chef of the Texas restaurant Comedor in December 2020, which was two months after he finished filming Top Chef, according to Eater Austin. He was let go due to "repeated violations of our policies and for behavior in conflict with our values," restaurant partner Philip Speer said in an email to the outlet.
Erales, who won $250,000 on the show, wrote in his new post that he has spent the last three weeks working on "reflection and personal growth."
"I have been silent not because I needed time with my family to start the healing process before making a public statement," he shared. "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. Most importantly, I let the one person down who has always been by my side supporting my career and our family, my wife."
"I recognize that part of an executive chef role is to set the culture and uphold the values of the restaurant," he said, adding that he is committed to creating a positive and safe work environment in his next venture. "I look forward to creating food that represent my heritage and culture as the as the chef I know I can be, but my main focus now is family and those that continue to support me during this difficult time."
When his firing gained national attention on July 1, Top Chef judge Padma Lakshmi gave more insight on the situation on Twitter, saying, "As someone who has been sexually harassed, this topic is a serious one and merits openness."
"We filmed Top Chef in October of last year & were not aware of the allegations now coming out about Gabe," she continued. "This should be investigated & the network should consider its best action."
Lakshmi clarified that no one alleged sexual harassment on the record or otherwise to the Bravo or Top Chef team. "We judges didn't have any indication of inappropriate behavior from Gabe during his time on set," she added.
According to Erales' Instagram bio, he is the chef and owner of the Mexican-inspired restaurant Bacalar, which is opening in fall 2022 in Austin.