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S18.E14: The Next Top Chef Is...

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5 hours ago, tv echo said:

Although Gabe is currently not listed among the chefs under "Talent" for the Aspen Food & Wine event, September 10-12, 2021, if you look at the event's "Seminar Schedule", you'll see the following listing for Sunday, Sep. 12:

 

There are eleven different seminars at the same time.  I wonder if his will out draw "Pairing Wine & Potato Chips"?    That's the only humor I can find in this entire fiasco.   

I think if he actually appears, that will tell me whether I'm ever watching TC again.  

This Time magazine article (it may be behind a paywall), talks about other TC missteps, or downright horrible events in the past of the show.   I forgot the Charleston plantation event, Kevin and his restaurant concept that was very offensive, some of the past bullies and misogynists, and incidents like the Mean Girls bullying of Beverly on the TC Texas season.     I think there should have been a major review of their chefs behavior, and some of the tone deaf events they've featured over the years.  

https://time.com/6077660/top-chef-portland-finale/

I bet all of the sponsors are really upset about the winner, and wonder if they have a way of refusing to supply the prizes?  

Edited by CrazyInAlabama
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503          10:00 am–11:00 am  In the Kitchen with Top Chef       Top Chef Season 18 Winner

That's part of the prize package. $5 says Shota or Dawn actually show up.

It's not only TC tied to the Gabe albatross, San Pelligrino can't be too happy now.

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For some strange reason, on reddit TC forums, Gabe is being portrayed as either falsely accused or a martyr. One complete moron actually invoked Emmet Till regarding the accusations against Gabe. Sometimes reddit is a complete sewer, populated with the stereotype of basement dweller losers with zero life experience. 

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1 hour ago, Ellee said:

He's "...thankful for the management team for enforcing their core values in an effort to keep a safe work environment because I would not not have been able to face my personal challenges had this not happened"

Or is he just sorry and embarrassed that he was caught?  As executive chef, does he get to dictate who works in the kitchen and how much?  I guess it's his team of people, so perhaps?  No idea how it works in the restaurant industry.  Seems like the executive chef should be able to have some say in who produces the food.  But if this employee's performance was subpar, then why not just terminate her and not just reduce hours?  Somebody in management should have questioned those decisions.

Despite the post finale drama that will forever cloud this season, I really enjoyed the new concept of "nice Top Chef" and especially having the past contestants serve as the guest judges.  I'm pretty sure this was from a pandemic logistics/bubble standpoint.  I hope that it will continue at least in some fashion.  I feel like Kwame, Gregory, and Melissa really elevated their profiles with this season.  But I also like seeing the juggernaut famous chefs from around the country as well.  Hope there is a good balance of the two in future seasons.

 

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On 7/3/2021 at 2:23 PM, Domenicholas said:

Does anyone remember Top Chef Just Desserts, where the first runner up was revealed to be a child predator and that show disappeared off the face of the Earth after two seasons? The Gabe situation reminds me of a less extreme version of that.

I am quoting myself because my original post wasn't really clear.

I was not comparing Gabe to the aforementioned runner up. I believe that preying on children is the worst thing anyone can do, and that guy is the scum of the Earth for doing it. Gabe had a consensual but inappropriate relationship with a subordinate (inappropriate for the same reasons a college shouldn't date their student, a psychiatrist shouldn't sleep with their willing patient, and a sergeant shouldn't cavort with a person under their command: an extreme unbalance of power), but he's nowhere near as bad as the Just Desserts guy.

I was pointing out the Top Chef is once again in the awkward position where they have to deal with broadcasting and potentially rebroadcasting a season where the winner is alleged to have behaved in an inappropriate manner before and after production. It's not like Gabe was the first person to be kicked off where they can skip that episode; he's the winner. In the case of Just Desserts, the crimes of the runner up were so severe that I have no doubt that it was one of the contributing factors to the cancelling of that show. Gabe's alleged actions are nowhere near that level, nor do I believe they will lead to Top Chef's cancellation. It will, however, probably lead to a more thorough vetting  process and clauses preventing situations like this from happening again. Now, I liked Gabe from what we've seen in the show, and thought that he deserved to win based on his meal, but am uncomfortable with the allegations against him, some that he himself admits. Ultimately, he probably going to become like Jeremy or Kevin or Nick or Mei Lin and Paul with regards to continued references or future appearances on Top Chef.

Moving on...

Dawn ultimately was her worst enemy. It's a shame too; being an African American woman with three Southern grandparents, I wanted to eat her food the most. If she was that good even when she missed ingredients, how amazing would she had been if she actually completed her plate?

I was rooting for Shouta from the very beginning and sad that uncharacteristic mistakes took him out of the running. I'm glad that the competition brought his spirit back after having to close down his restaurant.

In regards to the season overall, I love the diversity in this season, both in the contestants and the judges. World cuisines that are not normally seen as elevated in the West (Mexican, West African, Japanese, etc...) got a chance to shine. It was poignant to Ed Lee tear up about Asian cuisine being celebrated and validated in a forum like Top Chef. I hope the Top Chef producers keep that in mind when casting for future seasons.

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I know my search skills stink but I’ve been trying to find articles about the cheftestants. I swear every year I find them and I’m coming up with nothing.    Is it me?

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I think there are two ways they (producers) could acknowledge the real events related to Gabe and provide a more satisfactory finale-I loved the suggestion from a few pages ago to have Dawn and Shota regroup for a final competition (which could have been done prior to broadcasting the finale-make an announcement that due to events just now coming to light they were revisiting the final competition with just two finalists).  Or, they could proclaim that due to current information coming to light that they decided to name Shota and Dawn as co-winners and have them split a $250,000 prize (again, they could have included that in the final episode).

I think there would be a difficulty in bringing Dawn and Shota back for a cook-off at this point (too late as they have already moved on), BUT they could have easily done this prior to the end of the season.

I think most viewers would understand if they had announced/addressed that they were not aware of how serious emerging allegations were and therefore wanted to revisit the finale.

I also thought most reality competition shows did not give the actual cash to the winner until after the season aired, so the producers could have done something prior to the airing of the entire season.

However, I will note that I was really upset during season 2 when Marcel was targeted, bullied, roughed up, and actually had his prep for the finale sabotaged.  Top Chef has never hidden the fact that they tolerate a LOT of bad behavior by the contestants.  Therefore, I am not particularly surprised that a situation like this has occurred.  

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26 minutes ago, seacliffsal said:

and actually had his prep for the finale sabotaged. 

He did not. He was the final person who walked through the walkthrough to double check that everything was there and than Sam helped him regroup and gave him the new idea which was the judges thought was the best dish of the night. 

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2 hours ago, greyhorse said:

But if this employee's performance was subpar, then why not just terminate her and not just reduce hours?  Somebody in management should have questioned those decisions.

There are lots of possibilities including:

1. The ex's performance was not at all subpar and Gabe was being a vengeful and abusive jerk.

2. The ex's performance was indeed somewhat subpar, but not enough to merit firing. So Gabe took the intermediate step of reducing her hours as a "wake up and smell the coffee" move.

3. The ex's performance was subpar enough to merit at least cutting of hours if not outright firing, but Gabe didn't want to pull the trigger for some reason (residual feelings for the ex, not wanting to go through the headache of actually firing her and the possible lawsuit that might result, expected resistance from the others at the restaurant, etc.)

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36 minutes ago, seacliffsal said:

I think there are two ways they (producers) could acknowledge the real events related to Gabe and provide a more satisfactory finale-I loved the suggestion from a few pages ago to have Dawn and Shota regroup for a final competition (which could have been done prior to broadcasting the finale-make an announcement that due to events just now coming to light they were revisiting the final competition with just two finalists).  Or, they could proclaim that due to current information coming to light that they decided to name Shota and Dawn as co-winners and have them split a $250,000 prize (again, they could have included that in the final episode).

I think there would be a difficulty in bringing Dawn and Shota back for a cook-off at this point (too late as they have already moved on), BUT they could have easily done this prior to the end of the season.

I think most viewers would understand if they had announced/addressed that they were not aware of how serious emerging allegations were and therefore wanted to revisit the finale.

I also thought most reality competition shows did not give the actual cash to the winner until after the season aired, so the producers could have done something prior to the airing of the entire season.

Whatever Dawn and Shota are up to these days, I figure they could make time to have one last competition for a shot at $250k (or additional money Top Chef might be able to put together as a prize).

I have no insider knowledge, but I don't know if the contracts that the contestants sign would cover something like what has been alleged so far, unethical but non-criminal behavior that has nothing directly to do with the contestant's behavior during the competition. 

From what has been reported, Gabe had the affair before competing on Top Chef. During the two months that the season was filming, he gave no signs of being abusive or harassing. Then he went home after taping and abused his ex and got fired. 

It sounds like the restaurant was at least somewhat tightlipped back in December about why they fired Gabe, and even now, they are at least somewhat guarded. 

If they took the situation to be largely as Gabe described it, 

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Just on a purely food level, this finale was boring. Tom was far more blown away by Shota’s team on Restaurant Wars. And that recent dinner Shota did with the dashi and the purple daikon - I would have given a lot to taste that. And the duck dish earlier this year … just underwhelmed by the finale food altogether. 

Edited by Marianna
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Do people really think that allowing Gabe to win Top Chef because he cooked the best food = Bravo endorses sexual harassment?  How does one make this quantum leap?  I understand this is bad pr, but are people really incapable of understanding that this is a cooking competition and not a competition to see who has the best character?  Assuming the most cynical view of reality tv - that this is all for entertainment and promotion - well, even that then requires us to throw out any integrity of the winner of who cooked the best food in the first place.  

Top chef is about cooking, not character.  What am I missing here?  He got fired for what he did at his last job.  Assuming the rumors are true, the woman can pursue legal action against him.  Why is it up to Bravo to inflict further disciplinary action against Gabe for something he did somewhere else that he didn’t do on Top Chef?   How does any of that have to do with whether or not his food warrants winning Top Chef?  If I learned that he violated the rules of Top Chef or that he was poisoning his food at his restaurant and that’s why he got fired, then we have something because that is relevant to competing to make good food, and arguably winning Top Chef will make people want to eat his food - but sexual harassment?  Say what now?  So Gabe can’t work anywhere else?  When is he allowed to perform his craft for money again?  No second chances?  His food is no good now?  

Can someone explain this to me?  I’m seriously confused.

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37 minutes ago, lampwick said:

Why is it up to Bravo to inflict further disciplinary action against Gabe for something he did somewhere else that he didn’t do on Top Chef?

Exactly.  Bravo/Top Chef did the right thing and investigated his time on the show and found nothing to complain about.  It was obvious from all the hugging and so on during the show that the other chefs, male and female, weren't having any problem with him.  He won fair and square by cooking the best final meal.  Since then, he has lost respect, his job, the benefits that would have accrued to him for being the winner and possibly his marriage.  I don't understand why anyone thinks Top Chef should punish him for something that had nothing to do with the show.  

I remember when Paul Qui was arrested and charged after getting violent with illegal drugs in his system and with a child present.  I remember some people being shocked and horrified and some hoping he'd get his life back together.  I do not remember anyone suggesting that Top Chef yank his winner's credentials.  

In some professions, having a relationship with a subordinate is considered unethical.  I don't know if that's true in the restaurant industry but, given that restaurant employees are known for having problems with drugs and alcohol, I'd be surprised if that kind of thing doesn't happen rather often.  In Gabe's case, he's married and it shouldn't have happened at all.  I haven't seen any condemnation of the woman who was having an affair with a married man.  Apparently, he told her he was separated - which is still married.  If she was having a problem with their relationship or felt that she was being treated badly, she had more than ample opportunity to go to the owners while he was away for weeks doing the show.  Not only did she not do that, she resumed the affair when he got back.  Only after he ended the affair and then cut her hours for whatever reason did she file a complaint.  That sounds to me more like a woman scorned seeking revenge than it does like a woman injured.  Obviously, I have no idea if her work suffered because of the end of the affair or if he was just trying to get rid of her.  Either way, the result was the same.

I'm not defending Gabe.  I have no respect for a philanderer.  I am saying that his personal problems are not Top Chef problems any more than Paul Qui's arrest or Gregory's prior addiction or Kwame's prior drug dealing and so on.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, mlp said:

Exactly.  Bravo/Top Chef did the right thing and investigated his time on the show and found nothing to complain about.  It was obvious from all the hugging and so on during the show that the other chefs, male and female, weren't having any problem with him.  He won fair and square by cooking the best final meal.  Since then, he has lost respect, his job, the benefits that would have accrued to him for being the winner and possibly his marriage.  I don't understand why anyone thinks Top Chef should punish him for something that had nothing to do with the show.  

I remember when Paul Qui was arrested and charged after getting violent with illegal drugs in his system and with a child present.  I remember some people being shocked and horrified and some hoping he'd get his life back together.  I do not remember anyone suggesting that Top Chef yank his winner's credentials.  

In some professions, having a relationship with a subordinate is considered unethical.  I don't know if that's true in the restaurant industry but, given that restaurant employees are known for having problems with drugs and alcohol, I'd be surprised if that kind of thing doesn't happen rather often.  In Gabe's case, he's married and it shouldn't have happened at all.  I haven't seen any condemnation of the woman who was having an affair with a married man.  Apparently, he told her he was separated - which is still married.  If she was having a problem with their relationship or felt that she was being treated badly, she had more than ample opportunity to go to the owners while he was away for weeks doing the show.  Not only did she not do that, she resumed the affair when he got back.  Only after he ended the affair and then cut her hours for whatever reason did she file a complaint.  That sounds to me more like a woman scorned seeking revenge than it does like a woman injured.  Obviously, I have no idea if her work suffered because of the end of the affair or if he was just trying to get rid of her.  Either way, the result was the same.

I'm not defending Gabe.  I have no respect for a philanderer.  I am saying that his personal problems are not Top Chef problems any more than Paul Qui's arrest or Gregory's prior addiction or Kwame's prior drug dealing and so on.

 

 

 

You don’t get how having your hours cut is an injury?  You don’t get how the powerful partner cutting their employee’s hours sounds more like revenge than does that less powerful partner’s act to report it?  To me it does - on its face. And that is without knowing why he cut her hours. Pretty self-serving to say it was performance-related. Perhaps it was when she cut off their relationship?  Or to scare her off of revealing it?  Whatever the truth, the rules against this are in place precisely so that employees can be managed without anyone having to guess whether it was retaliation. Professionally, Gabe deserves what he got.  Without TC, he would’ve just gotten the next job, unfortunately for his employees there.  He chose to go on TC, and with utterly predictable consequences for his behavior. 

Edited by Marianna
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6 hours ago, Chicago Redshirt said:

have no insider knowledge, but I don't know if the contracts that the contestants sign would cover something like what has been alleged so far, unethical but non-criminal behavior that has nothing directly to do with the contestant's behavior during the competition. 

Even name-brand stars have morals clauses. TC can kick off anyone it wants to. 

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7 hours ago, lampwick said:

Do people really think that allowing Gabe to win Top Chef because he cooked the best food = Bravo endorses sexual harassment?  How does one make this quantum leap?  I understand this is bad pr, but are people really incapable of understanding that this is a cooking competition and not a competition to see who has the best character?  Assuming the most cynical view of reality tv - that this is all for entertainment and promotion - well, even that then requires us to throw out any integrity of the winner of who cooked the best food in the first place.  

Top chef is about cooking, not character.  What am I missing here?  He got fired for what he did at his last job.  Assuming the rumors are true, the woman can pursue legal action against him.  Why is it up to Bravo to inflict further disciplinary action against Gabe for something he did somewhere else that he didn’t do on Top Chef?   How does any of that have to do with whether or not his food warrants winning Top Chef?  If I learned that he violated the rules of Top Chef or that he was poisoning his food at his restaurant and that’s why he got fired, then we have something because that is relevant to competing to make good food, and arguably winning Top Chef will make people want to eat his food - but sexual harassment?  Say what now?  So Gabe can’t work anywhere else?  When is he allowed to perform his craft for money again?  No second chances?  His food is no good now?  

Can someone explain this to me?  I’m seriously confused.

I can't explain what it means to others, only myself.  I see it from the point of view of consistency.  Bravo has edited out others who have been accused of similarly offensive things but decided, probably because he was the winner and that was too important to them, not to do that with Gabe.  It seems hypocritical and self serving, especially because Gabe himself admitted to at least some of the charges.  Some kind of formal statement should have been made by Bravo at the very least, like a black screen at the end of the final episode saying that while they found out about the situation before the season aired, they decided to leave things as-is with the outcome of the competition as it was still being investigated, or something like that.

6 hours ago, mlp said:

In some professions, having a relationship with a subordinate is considered unethical.  I don't know if that's true in the restaurant industry but, given that restaurant employees are known for having problems with drugs and alcohol, I'd be surprised if that kind of thing doesn't happen rather often.  In Gabe's case, he's married and it shouldn't have happened at all.  I haven't seen any condemnation of the woman who was having an affair with a married man.  Apparently, he told her he was separated - which is still married.  If she was having a problem with their relationship or felt that she was being treated badly, she had more than ample opportunity to go to the owners while he was away for weeks doing the show.  Not only did she not do that, she resumed the affair when he got back.  Only after he ended the affair and then cut her hours for whatever reason did she file a complaint.  That sounds to me more like a woman scorned seeking revenge than it does like a woman injured.  Obviously, I have no idea if her work suffered because of the end of the affair or if he was just trying to get rid of her.  Either way, the result was the same.

I'm not defending Gabe.  I have no respect for a philanderer.  I am saying that his personal problems are not Top Chef problems any more than Paul Qui's arrest or Gregory's prior addiction or Kwame's prior drug dealing and so on.

This view is becoming less the norm every day.  More and more, employers are making the boss/subordinate (especially the extramarital one) their concern, especially if they are big companies with well defined general ethics policies that behavior like this would not be congruent with in their view.  This article provides a general explanation.  It is generally not seen from the POV of the subordinate, although I am sure they get reprimanded under such policies as well, depending on the degree to which they were an equal party to the affair and not only the target of harassment.

One of the reasons it is considered grounds for dismissal is the obvious unfairness this kind of situation creates between that one "favored" employee who has a relationship with the boss and those that don't.  I think one of the reasons Gabe reduced this woman's hours when he returned was overcompensation to make it look like he wasn't giving her special treatment.  Even if special treatment isn't given it can feel that way to the boss's other subordinates if they find out about the relationship.  It is one reason why a lot of companies don't like to hire family members to work under other family members, or "significant others" to work under their partners.  Of course this isn't always possible in a family-run business, but we are talking about often larger, more professional situations than that.  

I think a major point that should be made is that this is not just behavior that goes on in their personal lives, but behavior that has everything to do with the workplace and could not be expected NOT to affect their performance in the workplace.  Therefore it ceases to become something only happening in their personal lives and therefore not their employer's concern.  It also becomes about how their personal lives impact their images and their performance at work, and whether that is fair to other employees or is in line with company ethics policies.  And this is something that IMO an employer has every reason to be concerned with and take action over.

In that vein (and this point may in fact be the most relevant one), generally, when it is found out that a married boss is having an extramarital affair with a subordinate, their reputation among a lot of the workforce there is going to go down and some employers don't want that kind of personal drama and bad feeling messing up the professional dynamic in in their offices.  They want things to be on a strictly professional basis and when a personal issue may affect a boss's image with the rest of their subordinates, it will inevitably affect their ability to effectively lead those subordinates.  If even some of those subordinates know of the behavior and don't respect it, that's a big issue.  They have a legitimate reason to be concerned about this, IMO. 

Top Chef may not be an "employer" in that sense of the word, but they have a reputation to protect as well, and any lack of position on this, and the lack of them issuing any consequences on this seems to tacitly approve of the behavior.  It does seem to tarnish their image that they are not at least issuing some sort of official statement about their view of the charges.  At least say that if he is in fact guilty they do not approve of the behavior nor is it in line with the qualities that a Top Chef should have.  A Top Chef should be a leader and exhibit leadership qualities (which this behavior does not, IMO) and what they do outside the competition is legitimately part of whether they even should get chosen for the competition in the first place.  It is obvious to me that if they had known about these charges beforehand he would never have made it on the show.  So the lack of congruence there and the message of hypocrisy it sends is concerning to me. 

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Even if we look only at Gabe's admissions and the statements made by the restaurant's owners, and accept them as true, he didn't just cut the female employee's hours - from the Austin American-Statesmen article:

Quote

Erales told the American-Statesman that though his physical relationship ended with the female kitchen employee when he returned from Portland, he continued communicating with her in an unprofessional manner. 

We don't know if that means he was just rude to her (which wouldn't be enough to get him fired) or if he sexually harassed her. In any event, his behavior while executive chef of Comedor was enough to constitute "repeated violations" of the restaurant's sexual harassment policy and to get him fired.

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At the time of the chef’s departure in December, Comedor's owners said that Erales was let go “due to violation of our policies and for behavior in conflict with our values.” In June, Speer clarified to the Statesman that Erales was fired for repeated violations of the company's ethics policy as it relates to harassment of women. 
*  *  *
A spokeswoman for "Top Chef" declined to comment for this story. However, a source close to "Top Chef," who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly, told the American-Statesman that the show learned from Comedor in December that Erales was fired for violations of the restaurant’s harassment policy but said the restaurant did not provide further details about the firing. 

As the star chef of a successful restaurant and a major contributor to that success, he would not have been fired by the restaurant over something trivial.

ETA: Call me cynical, but I don't think Gabe will suffer any career repercussions (other than maybe not being invited back to Top Chef). He's opening a new restaurant, probably using the $250,000 he received as winner of Top Chef, which will probably be successful. He's appearing at the Aspen event, where he'll be able to promote himself as the Top Chef winner, and promote his new restaurant. He also works in the restaurant industry where sexual harassment of female workers by supervisors, managers or owners is pretty pervasive. And now he's going to own his own restaurant, so he won't be fire-able by anyone. 

Edited by tv echo
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6 hours ago, Marianna said:

Even name-brand stars have morals clauses. TC can kick off anyone it wants to. 

The question is more what the moral clause in the contract covers and what it might allow Bravo to do, and whether a court would uphold its invocation in this instance.

We're all just guessing, but I would imagine that although broadly written, it might be hard to apply in this situation. Again, we don't know the full extent of what the situation is.

If Gabe's spin is correct and after filming Top Chef, he cut his ex's hours and otherwise disrespected her earning a firing, is that enough to potentially invoke it? 

If the Reddit rumors are correct and he abused his power to have affairs with about seven employees, is that enough? 

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1 hour ago, tv echo said:

Even if we look only at Gabe's admissions and the statements made by the restaurant's owners, and accept them as true, he didn't just cut his employee's hours - from the Austin American-Statesmen article:

We don't know if that means he was just rude to her (which wouldn't be enough to get him fired) or if he sexually harassed her. In any event, his behavior while executive chef of Comedor was enough to constitute "repeated violations" of the restaurant's sexual harassment policy and to get him fired.

As the star chef of a successful restaurant and a major contributor to that success, he would not have been fired by the restaurant over something trivial.

ETA: Call me cynical, but I don't think Gabe will suffer any career repercussions (other than maybe not being invited back to Top Chef). He's opening a new restaurant, probably using the $250,000 he received as winner of Top Chef, which will probably be successful. He's appearing at the Aspen event, where he'll be able to promote himself as the Top Chef winner, and promote his new restaurant. 

The thing is that the statements made by the restaurant owner a) might not be true and b) are vague enough to mean a lot of things in a vacuum.

We don't know what the restaurant's ethics policy says, for instance, how many times Gabe violated it, or how.

Its policy may hold that high-level execs like Gabe simply cannot date subordinates at all. If Gabe slept with the woman multiple times, does that count as the multiple violations of the policy? How about if he slept with her and then spoke to her harshly? Or is it that he engaged in this sort of behavior for years with multiple women, as is alleged anonymously? Did he have a relationship with this one woman that turned sour or did he create a toxic environment for women generally? 

We have an idea of the floor of the allegations because Gabe admitted to the sexual relationship, the cutting of the ex's hours and communicating with her unprofessionally. We don't really have a good idea of the ceiling.

We don't know how the sexual relationship ended. If Gabe was like, "Start sleeping with me again if you want to get your full set of hours" that is obvious sexual harassment. It's not as clear-cut if in fact Gabe did opt to give better-performing employees more hours, and the management thought that was unnecessary,. 

I agree that it seems unlikely that a restaurant would fire its star chef over trivial or unproven allegations. But it is possible.

Especially in the context of this situation, where it could have been apparent that Gabe was unlikely to continue with the restaurant. In December, presumably the management did not know that Gabe had won Top Chef if he and others abided by their nondisclosure agreement. But it is certainly possible that his restaurant managers saw him as having a foot out of the door regardless. Knowing or expecting that he might be leaving soon might change the restaurant's level of willingness to believe or back Gabe.

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38 minutes ago, Chicago Redshirt said:

We don't know how the sexual relationship ended. If Gabe was like, "Start sleeping with me again if you want to get your full set of hours" that is obvious sexual harassment. It's not as clear-cut if in fact Gabe did opt to give better-performing employees more hours, and the management thought that was unnecessary,. 

It could have been done in retaliation for her breaking up with him, or it could have been out of spite, or as I suggested, when he got wind that she had told people about their relationship, he overreacted by trying to make it look like he wasn't giving her any preferential treatment in comparison with other employees.  He may have cut her hours because he heard of grumbling that he gave her more hours than the rest of his staff because she was his "girlfriend".  The restaurant indicated that his cutting her hours didn't have to do with her performance.  That suggests to me that he did it for personal reasons in reaction to something about their personal relationship.  If that's the case it clearly shows me that he was unable to exercise objective judgment with regard to this employee.  And I can see the restaurant not liking that.  A boss making decisions about an employee because of some personal issue between them that seem unfair and unjustified based on that employee's performance is a big problem, and yet another reason for his dismissal.

Edited by Yeah No
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On 7/2/2021 at 1:13 PM, hendersonrocks said:

Team Shota. That's about all I got after watching this finale and finally seeing people take the allegations against Gabe seriously. 

It doesn't matter if he seemed like a nice guy on TV. It doesn't matter if he makes a great mole. It's a pall on this entire OTHERWISE LOVELY season, and it says a lot about him that he chose to put himself in the spotlight despite alllll of what he was up to at home.

(I also thought the finale was kind of boring, truth be told.)

 

Some particularly great moles - John le Carre and, well, it speaks for itself, really.

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I'll be interested to see if Gabe's upcoming restaurant actually happens. His after tax winnings won't be enough to fund a new place by himself; he has outside investors they may just cut bait given the negative PR. 

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I have no issue with Dawn losing but if I had to choose whose place I would like to eat it is absolutely Dawn’s.

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The restaurant industry is desperate for workers right now. This has not been the case before. I hope many women who have felt trapped can take advantage of the current situation and move to a better environment. Any woman being harassed should be able to quit and find another job the same day. The workers control the means of production! For the time being anyway, and it's not often the balance of power swings that way.

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On 7/2/2021 at 3:50 PM, albarino said:

I disagree.  I'd like to know who she slept with to get this gig.  She really isn't very good.

Right? It's almost like Padma just got the job because of her looks or something. 

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On 7/3/2021 at 8:27 AM, MajorWoody said:

Amazing how the season where Social Justice pandering was shoved down our throats every week ends up with a dude who abuses women and cheats on his pregnant wife as the winner. And Bravo basically admits that they didn’t address it or change the finale due to inconvenience and cost. So ignore all the holier than thou bullshit they pushed this season, and realize that they will place profit over principles when it comes down to it.

 

Now Padma is speaking out, a little late if you ask me. The news about Gabe was out there months ago, and was completely ignored by Bravo. 
 

This season was dull, condescending, and full of hypocrisy. Top Chef , and Padma and Tom in particular, should be ashamed. 

I couldn't agree more regarding the irony. Oh, how The Woke do stumble ... all over themselves.  

Now can we stop with the hypocritical lecturing and make it about the food next season, maybe?

Edited by Josiemae
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22 hours ago, lampwick said:

Do people really think that allowing Gabe to win Top Chef because he cooked the best food = Bravo endorses sexual harassment?  How does one make this quantum leap?  I understand this is bad pr, but are people really incapable of understanding that this is a cooking competition and not a competition to see who has the best character?  Assuming the most cynical view of reality tv - that this is all for entertainment and promotion - well, even that then requires us to throw out any integrity of the winner of who cooked the best food in the first place.  

Top chef is about cooking, not character.  What am I missing here?  He got fired for what he did at his last job.  Assuming the rumors are true, the woman can pursue legal action against him.  Why is it up to Bravo to inflict further disciplinary action against Gabe for something he did somewhere else that he didn’t do on Top Chef?   How does any of that have to do with whether or not his food warrants winning Top Chef?  If I learned that he violated the rules of Top Chef or that he was poisoning his food at his restaurant and that’s why he got fired, then we have something because that is relevant to competing to make good food, and arguably winning Top Chef will make people want to eat his food - but sexual harassment?  Say what now?  So Gabe can’t work anywhere else?  When is he allowed to perform his craft for money again?  No second chances?  His food is no good now?  

Can someone explain this to me?  I’m seriously confused.

The large part of Top Chef is about who cooks the best meal in the finale after doing well enough each week to not get eliminated, or to make your way back from Last Chance Kitchen.

But part of the title is about being an ambassador for the Top Chef brand specifically and for the culinary world more broadly. It is about character. That's why the show spends a lot of time building narratives about each of the contestants and trying to make them memorable for audiences to root for or against. If it was just about the food, they would never show the calls to the families or mention anything that is not directly related to the process of cooking. 

It's not just the $250k prize. It's the notion that the winner gets to go around to Aspen and elsewhere and boast the Top Chef credential and use that as leverage for fame, loans, publicity, etc. That raises the question: Does Top Chef want to lend its name and convey those benefits to a known sexual harasser?

People's mileage will vary, I suppose. I would like to think that if it were clearcut that Gabe was engaged in rampant quid pro quo sexual harassment, most people would say no. If you take Gabe at his word and he basically just had the bad judgment to have an affair with a subordinate and cut her hours not for any retaliatory reason, many people might give that a pass in any potential ramifications for Top Chef.

Part of the problem, though, is it is seemingly rare that a person in charge sexually harasses just the one person. 

Part of what I think is going on is that the show sold us a narrative of Gabe as loving family man when, well, I will generously say that the actual situation was more complicated than that and by the time the show aired, TPTB knew that. I think people don't appreciate being lied to, essentially.

Now would this controversy have diminished if in the finale there was a screen or two saying "After this season was filmed, Gabe Erales was fired from his job as executive chef for repeated instances of sexual harassment. Once Bravo learned of this, Bravo did its investigation of Erales's behavior during Top Chef and found nothing untoward. Although Bravo takes allegations of sexual harassment seriously, Bravo has chosen to air this season and not revoke Mr. Erales's prize because (fill in the blank for reasons)"? 

I think there are some behaviors that most people would agree that if a TC winner did and it came to light before their win aired,  the season would be shitcanned, or the winner would either be stripped of the prize, or there would be the disclaimer that "So and so won, but this was taped before it came out that So and so did this" or something.

No one can tell me that if a winner got charged with rape or murder before his season aired, Bravo would have just aired it with no problems, no disclaimers.

Bravo knew about Gabe's firing in December. They had every opportunity to ask more questions of Gabe and his former employer and his co-workers to figure out what was going on and what they wanted to do about it.

From the sounds of things, they did not probe very deeply, because if they had, they would have likely found at least some of the chatter that is on the Internet now and then some, and they probably would have made some different decisions.

One way to look at the seemingly light probe is that Bravo/Top Chef does not take accusations of sexual harassment all that seriously. They knew, or should have known, that their future winner was fired for some form of it. 

Does Gabe being a sexual harasser mean that he can't work anywhere else now? Of course not. He would just have to convince his employer that a) his past sexual harassment was not so severe as to be an auto-disqualification and/or b) he's learned his lesson.

21 hours ago, mlp said:

I remember when Paul Qui was arrested and charged after getting violent with illegal drugs in his system and with a child present.  I remember some people being shocked and horrified and some hoping he'd get his life back together.  I do not remember anyone suggesting that Top Chef yank his winner's credentials.  

In some professions, having a relationship with a subordinate is considered unethical.  I don't know if that's true in the restaurant industry but, given that restaurant employees are known for having problems with drugs and alcohol, I'd be surprised if that kind of thing doesn't happen rather often.  In Gabe's case, he's married and it shouldn't have happened at all.  I haven't seen any condemnation of the woman who was having an affair with a married man.  Apparently, he told her he was separated - which is still married.  If she was having a problem with their relationship or felt that she was being treated badly, she had more than ample opportunity to go to the owners while he was away for weeks doing the show.  Not only did she not do that, she resumed the affair when he got back.  Only after he ended the affair and then cut her hours for whatever reason did she file a complaint.  That sounds to me more like a woman scorned seeking revenge than it does like a woman injured.  Obviously, I have no idea if her work suffered because of the end of the affair or if he was just trying to get rid of her.  Either way, the result was the same.

I'm not defending Gabe.  I have no respect for a philanderer.  I am saying that his personal problems are not Top Chef problems any more than Paul Qui's arrest or Gregory's prior addiction or Kwame's prior drug dealing and so on.

There's a difference between allegedly bad behavior happening years after a Top Chef win, and it happening before the show had aired. I'm guessing it has been a while since Top Chef promoted anything about the fact that Paul Qui won.

As far as I have seen, there are not many details about the ex other than she worked at the restaurant. But whether she was a naive young woman who got taken in by Gabe's charm or if she's a manipulative crazy person this side of "Fatal Attraction," it doesn't matter all that much to me for purposes of the discussion here. That is to say, it doesn't make what Gabe did any more wrong or right, and it doesn't really change what Bravo should do/should have done about the allegations. I don't know where you saw the details claiming that she resumed the affair after Gabe returned from filming. I seem to remember Gabe's claim was that they were not involved after he returned. The woman could have been scorned or not, but she was clearly injured. He hit her in her pocketbook at a time when Covid made restaurant work a lot less secure. There also has not been much discussion of the effect of this sexual harassment on the various other employees at Comedor. I imagine it would suck working at a place where it might have been an open secret that the boss was sleeping with one of the employees. 

Again, a few relevant differences between Gregory/Kwame and Gabe:

1. The behavior of Gregory and Kwame I believe was known to TC execs, and I specifically remember they aired something about Gregory during his season. There was no acknowledgement of Gabe's firing or its reason, and there should have been.

2. Gregory/Kwame's behavior was part of their past, where years had gone by. If they were actively dealing drugs and Bravo had reason to suspect that, it would be just as messed up for them to run a season without mentioning that TC was putting an active drug dealer front and center. Meanwhile, Gabe's sexual harassment was part of his present as of the taping of the show.

3. As the winner of TC, it is more important that Gabe be spotless than also-rans.

Gabe's sexual harassment is, or should be, a TC problem. To put it another way, if there was indisputable proof that Gabe was coercing women to sleep with him, retaliating against them when they didn't, and making the workplace uncomfortable for them, do you think that Top Chef would be fine to say, "Well, none of that happened on our watch, so we're good?"

19 hours ago, Marianna said:

Even name-brand stars have morals clauses. TC can kick off anyone it wants to. 

To rephrase something I think I may have said, I would expect that there is a morals clause to Gabe's contract. One question is whether a court would uphold their invoking it under these circumstances. Another is whether it's too late -- has Gabe already received the prize money? What if anything does the contract say about revoking the title or forcing Gabe to pay any money back?

Could Bravo invoke the morals clause of someone for having unpaid parking tickets? Sure, but I am guessing a court would reject that. 

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On 7/4/2021 at 10:29 PM, lampwick said:

Do people really think that allowing Gabe to win Top Chef because he cooked the best food = Bravo endorses sexual harassment?  How does one make this quantum leap?  I understand this is bad pr, but are people really incapable of understanding that this is a cooking competition and not a competition to see who has the best character?  

I don't have much to add to @Chicago Redshirt's fantastic post except to share what I understand.  I think Top Chef fucked up because I view it as a reality TV show first and a cooking competition second.

The chefs who end up on this show get here because they go through a casting process where talent is only one factor.  Producers also look for stories that can be told, different backgrounds, personalities and people who will look good on camera. 

They take what the chefs share and use the editing process to craft the stories of the season and can determine how a contestant is portrayed.  Gabe was fired in December.  TPTB knew this and still told the story in the editing process, all through the finale, of Gabe as a family man.  No shade--just pure goodness.

I don't know if I would say Top Chef explicitly endorses sexual harassment but they sure as hell did a bang up job of inoculating their winner.  By the time the allegations started being shared more widely, there was a lot of disbelief that the guy we were seeing on TV could ever do what he was being accused of and a lot of alternative theories were floated to make anyone but Gabe the bad guy--even after he explicitly admits to one incident.

And that's just what it boils down to for me.  It's easy for Top Chef to care about sexual harassment when they can just edit out a judge.  But when the guilty party was their winner, it opted to protect its brand knowing that more people who watch the show will never know what he did. 

2 hours ago, Chicago Redshirt said:

One question is whether a court would uphold their invoking it under these circumstances. Another is whether it's too late -- has Gabe already received the prize money? What if anything does the contract say about revoking the title or forcing Gabe to pay any money back?

It's probably too late now but it probably wasn't too late before the finale aired.  I don't know what the Top Chef contract looks like but I've heard that the contract for other game shows or competitive reality shows state that winners don't get the money until the show (episode or season) has aired.  I think I remember reading contestants from a reality show having to wait over a year before they finally got their winnings because their season kept being delayed. I do wonder if there's anything to prevent the show from filming a new episode and declaring the winner of that ep as the winner and not the original winner.

 

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It isn’t only that he did what he did, but also that he WAS FIRED for it. 

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On 7/3/2021 at 1:49 PM, Calamity Jane said:

And as a former teacher of grades 4-8, I can say with certitude that kids will pick on anything they take into their heads as out of the norm. It sadly seems to be part of the human condition. 

It's actually part of being an animal.  Animals can sense when one member of the group is "different" and they'll harass it.  Despite our civility, there are some aspects of our animal nature that we can't escape.

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3 hours ago, Rammchick said:

It's actually part of being an animal.  Animals can sense when one member of the group is "different" and they'll harass it.  Despite our civility, there are some aspects of our animal nature that we can't escape.

I actually used to talk to my students about this, especially 7th and 8th graders, who can be truly horrendous to each other. I saw it as part of what they needed to learn over and over again because it is instinctual behavior that needs to be overcome and corrected. I don’t know how much headway I made with them outside my classroom, but they sure knew not to pull that stuff inside it. A different teacher’s student wrote me a note once saying he liked being sent to my room on time out because “everyone is so polite to each other in here.”  Kids. 

Edited by Calamity Jane
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3 hours ago, Angeleyes said:

Here is a Jezebel article where they discuss the Gabe situation. I like that they mention that the show could have made choices in the editing and how each contestant is portrayed (typical reality show stuff) so Top Chef portraying Gabe as a good guy was a choice. 
 

https://jezebel.com/top-chefs-feel-good-season-collapses-on-itself-1847232954

Thank you for sharing the article.  It was a good read.  

Reading everything about Gabe and the situation just makes me ill.  This guy is going to be able to open his own restaurant and according to him he is going to create a positive, non-toxic environment.  How, exactly, is he going to do that when, also according to him, he didn't know the decision to lessen this woman's hours wasn't a toxic thing to do when there was no performance based reason to do so?  This man didn't even think he did anything wrong until he got fired and actually got held accountable in some small way.

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Yes, thanks for the link. I suppose the only upside is that he's under a microscope now. Any behavior or decision that's even a little bit questionable should be a lot harder to get away with, at least in the near term.

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On 7/4/2021 at 3:58 PM, seacliffsal said:

 

However, I will note that I was really upset during season 2 when Marcel was targeted, bullied, roughed up, and actually had his prep for the finale sabotaged.  Top Chef has never hidden the fact that they tolerate a LOT of bad behavior by the contestants.  Therefore, I am not particularly surprised that a situation like this has occurred.  

I just rewatched that season and felt even more strongly that all four of the remaining Cheftestants should have been eliminated, leaving Marcel as the winner -- but that would have left them with NO finale whatsoever. 

The thing is, there's on-camera/off-camera behavior during the season (aka while they are under contract to the production company) and then a Chef's behavior before and after the season. By all accounts, Gabe did not misbehave towards his fellow Chefs or production DURING the filming. It was before, and because there was no built-in break this year, that put Magical Elves in a tough spot. I can't say I agree with their decision -- I'm not sure I know what the right one is. But I also can't say it's the same as watching Cliff and Sam and Ilan and Elia treat Marcel so horribly on camera, during the competition.

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3 hours ago, Peper81 said:

Thank you for sharing the article.  It was a good read.  

Reading everything about Gabe and the situation just makes me ill.  This guy is going to be able to open his own restaurant and according to him he is going to create a positive, non-toxic environment.  How, exactly, is he going to do that when, also according to him, he didn't know the decision to lessen this woman's hours wasn't a toxic thing to do when there was no performance based reason to do so?  This man didn't even think he did anything wrong until he got fired and actually got held accountable in some small way.

I think he thinks all he has to do is apologize and say he's done some soul searching and make vows to be a better husband and father and we all should just forgive him like he's OK now and he's turned himself around, but come on now, how many TV personalities (and chefs, even from Top Chef itself) have gone down in flames, careers ruined, never to be heard of again because of similar or even weaker allegations?  Does he think he deserves special treatment?  And how are we supposed to believe him at his word?  He has every reason to lie, especially since we already know he's a liar.  I realize that the only incident we really know about is the one he's admitted to, and the rest is rumor and hearsay like the stuff on Reddit about how he was telling women he was separated when his wife was actually home pregnant, but come on.

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36 minutes ago, Nancybeth said:

I just rewatched that season and felt even more strongly that all four of the remaining Cheftestants should have been eliminated, leaving Marcel as the winner -- but that would have left them with NO finale whatsoever. 

The thing is, there's on-camera/off-camera behavior during the season (aka while they are under contract to the production company) and then a Chef's behavior before and after the season. By all accounts, Gabe did not misbehave towards his fellow Chefs or production DURING the filming. It was before, and because there was no built-in break this year, that put Magical Elves in a tough spot. I can't say I agree with their decision -- I'm not sure I know what the right one is. But I also can't say it's the same as watching Cliff and Sam and Ilan and Elia treat Marcel so horribly on camera, during the competition.

Yes, but they chose to make an example of only one.....and I believe the only time someone has been eliminated for awful behavior....

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I hate the whole apologist it “well he didn’t do anything while he was on the show or to anyone involved in the show” like that absolves them from any complicity because they didn’t see him do anything.    Every serial rapist, murderer and even every day spousal abusers had friends, family and coworkers who said they didn’t believe the accusations because they didn’t see any untoward behaviour, but that didn’t make them less guilty.   Would you want to work with Ted Bundy because he seemed like such a great guy according to everyone he didn’t murder.

Gabe’s employer who was in the perfect position to cash in on Gabe’s Top Chef win still canned him, so there was definitely some there there.   YMMV 

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I wonder if the prize money could be donated to a charitable group that combats sexual harassment or to a restaurant workers union. If not, they could make a good will gesture of donating the equivalent of that amount to those organizations. 

Edited by Angeleyes
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51 minutes ago, Angeleyes said:

I wonder if the prize money could be donated to a charitable group that combats sexual harassment or to a restaurant workers union. If not, they could make a good will gesture of donating the equivalent of that amount to those organizations. 

I imagine the sponsor, San Pellegrino, has something to say about that.

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1 hour ago, DEL901 said:

I hate the whole apologist it “well he didn’t do anything while he was on the show or to anyone involved in the show” like that absolves them from any complicity because they didn’t see him do anything.

Especially since he wasn't in charge of anyone on this show so we wouldn't necessarily see the same dynamic. 

The producers and judges had more power than he did because he wanted to win.  The other contestants were on the same level as he was. 

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Good luck with thinking this is anything but a done deal.  Gabe will ride it out until they move on with the next scandal....in the meantime he has his money and will open his restaurant.  A lot of people who will eat there won't know  ( some won't care) about the issue  because they don't watch Top Chef or inhabit internet spaces that talk about it. 

He is showing some fake remorse and that is all it will take.  At this point if he did donate any money, or his time, I would doubt the sincerity.  

I have not researched it outside of this forum because I have accepted that there are some terrible people...even those that make it on reality shows, that get away with all kinds of things.  I don't expect these people to be perfect, but it doesn't surprise me that some of them do or have done questionable things and are no nice people in real life. 

 

I thought Shota's food was interesting all season and Dawn seemed to make food the judges liked.  It was really great seeing some of the former chefs come back   Melissa King just seems like she is so laid back!   I wonder how she runs her kitchen under stress.  I can almost imagine them pulling out meditation candles and a mat or something....

I also would like to taste Maria's food. I know a lot of people did not connect with her, but she strikes me as the type that puts her everything into her food. 

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This Daily Beast article talked, not just about Top Chef, but also about other similarly problematic reality TV shows, and also about how the food industry has a higher percentage of female restaurant workers reporting sexual harassment than any other professional field...

Top Chef’s Winner Is a Loss for Women Everywhere
Elizabeth Hunt Brockway   Updated Jul. 07, 2021 
https://www.thedailybeast.com/top-chefs-winner-gabe-erales-is-a-loss-for-women-everywhere 

Quote

I respect Tom Colicchio for his frank admissions of insufficient action amid the restaurant industry’s #MeToo reckoning. I admire Padma for speaking openly about some of her own experiences. And yet, Season 18 of Top Chef will forever be known as the season where a creep won.
*  *  *
We don’t know what went on behind closed doors at Bravo. We don’t know what they decided to keep and what they decided to leave out. We don’t know what their contracts state. We don’t know if Padma, Gail, and Tom waged wars behind the scenes to advocate for a more delicate handling of Gabe’s indiscretions. But we also don’t know if they didn’t. We don’t know how much thought went into this. We only know the final product. And it was anything but satisfactory.

The above two linked statements made by Tom Colicchio in the past, where he spoke out against sexual harassment in the restaurant industry - especially Tom's 2017 "An Open Letter to (Male) Chefs" - together with the fact that he is a producer on Top Chef, make his present silence even more telling, not to mention whatever role he might've played in the presentation of this season of Top Chef.

Also, reading this Eater article helped me understand the disparity in power between lowly kitchen workers and the executive chef overseeing them...

It Took Leaving the Restaurant Industry for Me to Understand How Wrong I Was to Stay Silent About Its Abuses
by Lindsey Danis  Feb 4, 2021
https://www.eater.com/22264517/restaurant-kitchens-abusive-working-conditions 

Edited by tv echo
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Thank you for posting those articles @tv echo. I do hope that the uproar over Gabe’s win might lead to more conversations about the changes that need to be made in the industry. After the pandemic we’re seeing a record number of people leave the hospitality industry. Restaurants are having trouble finding servers. I’ve long felt that these types of issues are making people reconsider what they are willing to put up with for that level of pay. They are either seeking jobs in other higher paying industries or furthering their education to do so. Waiters and waitresses are essential workers and more needs to be done to make that job safe and desirable. 

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13 minutes ago, Angeleyes said:

Thank you for posting those articles @tv echo. I do hope that the uproar over Gabe’s win might lead to more conversations about the changes that need to be made in the industry. After the pandemic we’re seeing a record number of people leave the hospitality industry. Restaurants are having trouble finding servers. I’ve long felt that these types of issues are making people reconsider what they are willing to put up with for that level of pay. They are either seeking jobs in other higher paying industries or furthering their education to do so. Waiters and waitresses are essential workers and more needs to be done to make that job safe and desirable. 

Both times I worked in restaurants I was sexually harassed non-stop by the managers.  This was back in the 1970s.  It got so toxic in one case that the guy was following me to the subway every day after my shift.  It was so creepy and disturbing I quit after only 3 weeks.  This was in Manhattan, BTW.  I hated quitting because I loved food and cooking, and back then the restaurant industry had an even seamier reputation than it does now so most young people I knew were encouraged to stay away from it and go to college for white collar careers.  My own mother, who was a brilliant cook and fan of Julia Child warned to to stay away from it, and you know it had to be bad if she would discourage me.  After my experiences she said "I tried to warn you".  It's a shame because I often wonder what I could have accomplished in that field if things were different.

I personally think it's thanks to the glamorization of the culinary world in the past 20 years through channels like Food Network and TV shows like Top Chef that more people, especially women, are aspiring to a culinary career, but the sad reality is that not much has really changed behind closed doors in many kitchens.

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The only Anthony Bordain book I ever read was his first, Kitchen Confidential, where he details what it's really like for the kitchen staff and cooks. It's all very sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll, and he made it sound like one giant party punctuated by grueling shifts of actual work. Work hard, reward yourself by playing hard. He very much leaned into the idea of chefs as rock stars, and while the book was published 20 years ago that attitude seems to still prevail. They were all in their little culinary bubble, even his off time was spent eating and drinking with other chefs and cooks. I was not at all surprised when he got divorced, the last part of the book describes his daily routine as Executive Chef of Les Halles and there was no room for his wife.

Chefs generally can't afford to open a high end restaurant with their own money, they need investors and/or partners. Gabe may not be able to attract any after this to open his own. $250K won't cut it. If he does manage I hope women will categorically refuse to work for him.

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23 minutes ago, Vermicious Knid said:

Gabe may not be able to attract any after this to open his own

Have his partners bailed? He was already in a partnership to open his new restaurant and I assume they were aware of his firing.

Edited by biakbiak

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On 7/7/2021 at 9:17 PM, catrice2 said:

 Melissa King just seems like she is so laid back!   I wonder how she runs her kitchen under stress.  I can almost imagine them pulling out meditation candles and a mat or something....

I think I have a fascination with how people react to her.  I don't see laid back.  She's very good at controlling her emotions on the outside.  Everything seems like it's inside.  She'd be amazing at poker.  

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