The Big Problem With Top Chef Season 18

The restaurant industry as a whole has a big problem — sexual harassment. The issue is allegedly so common, journalists sometimes won't bother to investigate and expose individual cases (via Grub Street). However, there have been some notable chefs that have seen their media and restaurant careers crumble after revelations of abuse in their restaurants. One of the most prominent examples is Mario Batali. After several women came forward to detail his abuse, Batali lost his job as co-host of "The Chew" and saw the Food Network refuse to air six episodes of "Molto Mario" that had already been shot (via Delish). 

Harassment scandals have also hit Bravo's "Top Chef." The show edited John Besh out of a 2018 episode that had already been filmed after revelations that his restaurants perpetuated a climate of sexual harassment, according to The Washington Post. A separate Post article told the story of Mike Isabella, whose growing restaurant empire was hobbled by sexual harassment accusations. Isabella rose to fame after winning season six of "Top Chef," but his troubles started years after his appearance on the show. 

But the controversy surrounding season 18 may be "Top Chef's" biggest scandal yet. One day after Gabriel Erales was crowned the winner in the season finale, news broke that he had been fired as executive chef at an Austin, Texas, restaurant for violating the establishment's harassment and discrimination policies (via Jezebel).

Will Gabriel Erales keep his "Top Chef" title?

Erales, winner of "Top Chef" season 18, was fired from his chef position at Comedor after management learned that he had been in a consensual sexual relationship with an employee and then cut her hours, according to The Washington Post. Erales said he reduced the employee's hours because of poor job performance. The restaurant's ownership didn't see it that way, stating that Erales had repeatedly violated restaurant policies related to harassment of women.

As things stand, Erales is keeping his "Top Chef" title, which should come with a $250,000 prize and a glowing profile in Food & Wine, according to Eater Houston. In a tweet, "Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi called on Bravo to investigate. In a response to Lakshmi's tweet, one social media user spoke for a lot of "Top Chef" fans when they wrote: "The allegations against Gabe have ruined what was otherwise a stellar season. Please address this issue with honesty and integrity. If the allegations are true, Gabe should be stripped of his title."