[Note: This article contains spoilers for the most recent season of Top Chef.]
After three weeks of radio silence, recent Top Chef winner Gabe Erales has issued a statement/apology about his firing from Austin eatery Comedor, in the wake of a sexual harassment complaint. Erales—who was fired from his job at the highly-rated Mexican-inspired restaurant after he filmed the most recent season of Top Chef, but before its finale aired—was terminated after having a sexual relationship with an employee at the restaurant. He subsequently, and in his narrative, unrelatedly, cut the woman’s hours; per Erales, that’s ultimately why the harassment complaint was lodged. That’s not wholly in line with a statement made by one of his former bosses, who told Austin’s American Statesman newspaper that Erales had committed “repeated violations of the company’s ethics policy as it relates to harassment of women” and that the employee in question’s performance didn’t merit having her hours cut.
Erales—whose victory in the most recent, Portland-set season of Top Chef aired on July 1, a day before he gave an initial interview about his firing—made his apology on Instagram, aiming it primarily at his wife, and characterizing his termination as coming from a “poor judgment call” rather than any explicit wrongdoing. “The last three weeks have been a trying time of reflection and personal growth,” he wrote, adding that, “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 the moment.” Speaking of said family: That same American Statesman article notes that Bravo knew about the firing as this season of Top Chef was being filmed, but between the lack of details about the inciting incident made available to them, and Erales’ behavior during the filming itself, decided to go forward with shooting and airing the season. Although Bravo has yet to make an official statement, Top Chef judge Padma Lakshmi did address the issue earlier this month.
Erales, who’s expected to use at least some of his $250,000 prize to fund a new restaurant in Austin, ends his apology with some decidedly forward-looking language: “I look forward to creating food that represents my heritage and culture as the chef I know I can be,” he writes, “But my main focus now is my family and those who continue to support me during this difficult time.”