Kristen Kish Weighs In On The Controversy Surrounding Top Chef Winner Gabe Erales - Exclusive

During an exclusive interview with Mashed, chef Kristen Kish, who you may know as the Season 10 winner of "Top Chef," shared her thoughts on the misconduct allegations against Gabe Erales, the winner of the cooking competition's 18th season. After Bravo aired the "Top Chef" season finale in early July, it was revealed that Erales, who served as the executive chef at Comedor restaurant in Austin, engaged in an extramarital affair with an employee and was fired from the restaurant for "repeated violations of the company's ethics policy as it relates to harassment of women," per TVLine.

"I am a firm believer of kitchen culture, and what it looks like, and what it needs to be and what it used to be and how we're able to push our industry forward by being great leaders," Kish told Mashed. "[Erales] proved himself not to be a great leader. I think that's all I can really say on it because I don't know the full story. It's a lot of, he said, she said between the parties, so I'm neither one of them. But all I know is that I do not support behavior like that."

On July 23, Erales responded to the allegations on his Instagram, writing in part, "To say that I'm 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."

Kish, who returned to the show last season as a guest judge and runs Austin restaurant Arlo Grey, clarified that despite working in the same city as Erales, she was not familiar with him prior to his appearance on "Top Chef."

How Kristen Kish is working to improve kitchen culture

Kristen Kish made clear that she is no stranger to facing toxic culture on the job. "I've worked in primarily all-male kitchens, none of them where I felt threatened, but a lot of them where inappropriate things were said," she acknowledged. "Assumptions were made of why I was excelling faster than they were, or why I was getting a job that they felt they wanted, or taking credit for things that I did, or demeaning my accomplishments."

When Kish opened Arlo Grey in 2018, she vowed to excise that toxicity from her restaurant. "There was an expectation set on day one to say, these stupid ... somewhat harmless little passing jokes ... it's not going to be tolerated," she said. And if a problem were to arise, Kish emphatically instituted a "see something, say something" policy.

Kish also strongly credits her staff for helping to ensure a positive work environment at Arlo Grey. "I didn't have to teach these people how to be good humans, the ones that are with me right now, they just are," she said. "They really defined the everyday kitchen culture that they want to be a part of."

When asked if the industry as a whole still has a ways to go when it comes to improving kitchen culture, Kish has no doubt, noting the Erales situation and other continued instances of harassment in the workplace. "But I do know that we, as people in general, everyone, we're getting better about talking about it, which I think is a good start, I guess, or a good place that we can be right now."

If you're in Austin, be sure to grab a meal at Arlo Grey by Kristen Kish. And don't forget to follow Kristen Kish on Instagram.