Top Chef Contestant Sara Hauman Weighs In On The Season 18 Controversy - Exclusive

During an exclusive interview with Mashed, "Top Chef: Portland" contestant Sara Hauman shared her thoughts on the controversy surrounding Season 18 winner Gabe Erales. After the season aired, many fans were shocked by the revelation that Erales had been dismissed from his role as executive chef at Comedor restaurant in Austin, Texas. According to the accusations, Erales had been engaging in an extramarital affair with an employee and cut her hours in an alleged act of retaliation after the two ended their romantic relationship. A statement from the restaurant claimed the decision stemmed from "repeated violations of the company's ethics policy as it relates to harassment of women," per TVLine.

"That's such a bummer," Hauman responded when asked about the accusations about Erales. "I think there's a lot of opinions surrounding it, there's a lot of, 'Did other things happen?' Personally, I don't know that side of Gabe, but I think processing that whole situation is still happening for me."

Hauman also made clear that she was unaware of the allegations during the filming of "Top Chef." (News of Erales' alleged indiscretions and subsequent termination broke after the Season 18 finale aired.)

What Sara Hauman has learned about being a woman in the restaurant industry

As for the broader topic of the difficulties women face in the restaurant industry, Sara Hauman acknowledged the roadblocks that stand in the way of gender equality. She noted that her thoughts on the subject evolved during her time as chef de cuisine at San Francisco's Michelin-starred Octavia, working under famed chef Melissa Perello. "I think to have that mentor as a female owner and chef was something that I needed in my growth as a chef, just to see that it is different for females in the industry," she said. "It is very, very different. It is not the same. It will never be the same. We can always hope that it's going to be the same, but life gets in the way. And ultimately, starting a family as a chef is just always going to be much harder as a female."

According to Hauman, watching Perello balance her time in the kitchen made her recognize that a stronger work ethic would be a necessity. "I think working for Melissa was a reminder of that, but not in a bad way," she said. "It was like, you can still do what you want to do, but you know what? We've got to be more badass and we have to work harder."

Be sure to follow Sara Hauman on Instagram for her fantastic video cooking tutorials and keep an eye out for her upcoming canned seafood line Tiny Fish.