Will 'Top Chef: Portland' Winner Gabe Erales Lose His $250,000 Prize and Forthcoming Mexican Restaurant?

Top Chef is one of the most beloved cooking competition shows around. The show has been on the air for more than a decade and has gotten even better throughout the years. Top Chef has gained a massive audience and following with fans praising its ability to bring out the best in chefs, even under challenging situations.

Although most of the series is usually unproblematic, some bad seeds have managed to taint the TV show’s clean-cut image, as evidenced by the recent allegations leveled against season 18 winner Gabe Erales. Seeing as Bravo is receiving massive backlash over the season’s winner, many wonder if Erales will get to keep his $250,000 prize or the network will strip him of it and his forthcoming restaurant.

Gabe Erales made history with his ‘Top Chef’ win

Season 18 of Top Chef was filmed in Portland, and the judges had to fly to the city amid the raging pandemic. Filming took place from September 2020 to October 2020, and the cast and crew had to make several adjustments to keep safe. For instance, the judges weren’t allowed to share one plate during the tasting, and the contestants weren’t allowed to share spice jars.

Regardless of the strict coronavirus (COVID-19) measures employed on set, the season turned out to be a nail-biter. It also gained favor with audiences as fans enjoyed watching the diverse contestants battling it out in the kitchen. Fans also enjoyed watching Erales cook his way to the top and finally becoming Season 18’s top chef.

The final episode featured Erales battling it out with two other contestants: Dawn Burell, an Olympian turned expert chef, and Shota Nakajima, a talented Japanese cook. In the episode aired on July 1, 2021, Erales emerged as the winner making history as the first Mexican-American chef ever to win the cooking competition show.

His win was symbolic, and many fans believed in his hard work and dedication. Erales also made an emotional statement regarding his historic victory, stating that he was “glad to be representing his culture,” according to the Seattle Times. For his prize, the chef took home a $250,000 prize and a restaurant deal. However, not so long after, reports of his alleged sexual misconduct surfaced online.

The firing of Gabe Erales and Bravo’s response

Austin Eater reports that two months after wrapping up filming for Top Chef, Erales was let go from his role as opening executive chef in Commodore in December 2020. Although the reason for his firing has been kept a secret, Philip Speer, the restaurant’s partner, said in a statement that the Top Chef winner was fired “for repeated violation of our policies and for behavior in conflict with our values.”

Erales’ sexual misconduct allegations have prompted fans to demand Bravo strip him of his prize. Fans wanted Bravo to address the allegations leveled against the Top Chef winner. Host Padma Lakshmi took to Twitter to address the situation, saying, “we filmed Top Chef in October of last year & we’re not aware of the allegations now coming out about Gabe. This should be investigated & the network should consider its best action.”

Erales isn’t the only ‘Top Chef’ contestant involved in a scandal

Top Chef has a occasional dark history, with its contestants ending up in the spotlight for the various controversies. For instance, in 2018, Mike Isabella, a former contestant on the show, was sued by his former director of operations, Chloe Caras, who alleged that Isabella subjected her to inappropriate comments that she had to put up with at work. The two settled the matter out of court after Isabella denied the charges.

John Besh, of Top Chef: Colorado, also faced sexual harassment charges in 2017, which forced him to step down from his high-profile positions. Similarly, Top Chef alum Paul Qui was arrested in 2016 and faced assault charges by his girlfriend. The charges were later dropped in 2018, but the allegations hurt the chef’s career.

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