Top Chef: The Next Top Chef Is...
July 2, 2021 12:13 PM - Season 18, Episode 14 - Subscribe

After 13 grueling weeks of competition, the chefs must create the best four-course meal of their lives for their final challenge at Willamette Valley Vineyards. They’ll serve it to an esteemed table including Padma, Tom and Gail, this season’s All-Star dining panel, and a few additional noteworthy guests including Tiffany Derry, Peter Cho and Naomi Pomeroy. Former winners Melissa King and Richard Blais join the judges one last time to deliberate and crown the next Top Chef.

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posted by everybody had matching towels (17 comments total)

Easy enough to see coming as soon as third course hit, IMO (which set Shota back) and the dessert clinched it.

"Missing stair" characterization getting traffic now that the season is over: Padma responded to circulating talk, Gabe made a statement ( link). Reddit with the timeline.

/r/BravoTopChef/ has been a pretty good clearinghouse of links.
posted by supercres at 1:11 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]

Oh, should point out that it seems like Gregory Gourdet was the first person attached to the production to have a timely statement about abuse and harassment in the industry, albeit without mentioning names.
posted by supercres at 1:14 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]

posted by essexjan at 1:17 PM on July 2

Post-production news aside, I was sorry to see Gabriel win. He was just never likeable the whole season! Maybe that was the editors' fault, or maybe he didn't give them good material to work with. I much more admired Dawn's drive and tenacity and Shota's playfulness and really fascinating culinary expertise. Gabe was just kind of boring? He did execute well the whole season though and I can't quibble with the judging for the final competition. The moment Shota said he was making a Japanese curry I was worried. I mean I love Japanese curries! But it's so far removed from the creative, refined Japanese cooking he was winning with. Oddly rustic choice for a final meal; Shota seemed to realize it as a mistake.

And then the news on Gabriel, ugh. Supercres has already covered the big links, one more news link: Austin Eater. The Austin newspaper story is the big one:
Erales admitted to having a consensual sexual relationship with a female member of his kitchen staff in the summer of 2020 -- and then cutting her hours in November after he returned from taping the culinary king-making show in Portland in September and October. ...
“After I returned from ‘Top Chef,’ I made some business decisions as a manager that affected this employee and were found to be discriminatory and I realized that those were bad decisions”
What a piece of shit. He does say the right words in his statement to the newspaper but that's hardly enough for restitution. I don't know what is. A big fat cash settlement for the woman whose hours he cut, to start.

Worth noting the Reddit timeline shows a history of predatory behavior with multiple women. Also published allegations of abuse going back well before Top Chef started being produced; this July 2020 industry article includes allegations about "the sous chef at Comedor" albeit not mentioning Erales by name.
posted by Nelson at 4:12 PM on July 2

Damn! Being nearby (and having heard great things about Junebaby before the inside info on Jordan's shittiness broke) I'd been following that fallout. I completely missed him (or any non-allstar other than Pomeroy) in the wide shots; I'll have to look for him on rewatch.

A lot of the discourse has been along the lines of "Well, what should they have done?" given that this mostly broke after filming was completed-- public statements started with his firing but there'd definitely been rumblings before that that Bravo/Magical Elves should have been wise to. I don't have a great answer to that; TC doesn't have the luxury of a break between main season and finale anymore, the way that Drag Race does, which helped with the Sherry Pie situation.
posted by supercres at 4:23 PM on July 2

I'm sympathetic to Bravo for their predicament with this season; they had the whole thing filmed and ready to go, Erales apparently didn't behave badly on set, and even now it's not like there's a criminal charge. I don't think they would have filmed the season with him if they knew at the beginning about Erales. Idealistic me would like to think they just cut the show at Episode 13 and were like "well, some bad shit happened so we're stopping here". Or disqualify Gabe and film a new competition between Shota and Dawn after the news of Gabe's monstrousness came out. But that would be A Lot to do. And until Gabe commented in this Statesman story it was mostly whispers and rumor, right?

What I don't understand is Bravo's silence yesterday and today. There's nothing on the website. Bravo and Top Chef refused to comment for the Austin Statesman story. Padma's statement on Twitter is great but it sure sounds like something she personally wrote, not the show. Her show! I just don't get it. Bravo can't pretend they didn't know this was coming; the rumors in the Austin scene are 2 years old and the rumors went global once Top Chef started being broadcast. Heck, we were talking about them here on Fanfare.

Bravo's publicity department must have known they had a huge problem on their hands that was going to blow up last night, with the broadcast of the show. How are they not prepared with a statement? Why didn't they try to get ahead of the story? Did they hope we'd all just kind of not care enough to be mad? Maybe counting on the long weekend to let the story blow over? Yuck.
posted by Nelson at 4:44 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]

"Great news! This season we've made real strides with diversity. There's, uh, one thing though...."

Disappointing? Humiliating? Frustrating? It's a TV show, yes, so keeping it in perspective, but this dude just walked away with a quarter of a million dollars and is looking like he's going to be just fine. So, more of the same, just with a Top Chef lens on it.

The season was blissfully drama-free and pleasant to watch. It felt like everyone got along pretty well, and the food was truly interesting; I was glad we didn't have 3 takes on European cuisine once again. Yeah, I missed the pre-COVID-times challenges but I think they did a decent job making it feel Top Chef-fy.

But. Gabe. Cripes.

Nelson: Padma's statement on Twitter is great but it sure sounds like something she personally wrote, not the show. Her show! I just don't get it.

I promise I'm not being pedantic for the sake of being pedantic but it's totally Bravo's show ("Bravo's Top Chef") – yeah, Padma and Tom are exec producers, but Bravo owns all the IP and I trust they call all the shots like this one. I suspect that Padma (and the other all-stars, etc.) are doing what they can do within the bounds of their contracts.

But completely agreed that Bravo having no statement at the ready or the like feels like a weird choice. I mean, it's clearly (now) a choice, but just not saying anything is a weird strategy. I also suspect that it'll be a "let's just let time pass" approach, maybe his name gets mentioned in a month or two, but then when the next season films in several months it's swept under the rug and he's not included in anything TC-related going forward.

From a business standpoint, I bet there are PowerPoint decks outlining this choice (amongst all the others) and multiple folks who signed off on it; from a human standpoint, it's just disgusting.
posted by hijinx at 5:28 AM on July 3 [3 favorites]

Centering something good about the show for a moment, here's a post-series interview with Dawn. She's quite personal talking about her experience.
I’ve seen a lot of positive feedback from other African-American chefs. And also little girls who have started to cook. They’ve really been inspired by what they’ve seen on TV and me. Even girls who don’t even know what they want to do, but they’re happy to see someone on a stage like this, that looks like them. It just makes me happy. Because I really am into helping people. And I want to be a good representation of a Black female chef, of the young professional. I want to be a good example for others to follow and a resource that they need for encouragement.
posted by Nelson at 7:55 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]

Post-production news aside, I was sorry to see Gabriel win. He was just never likeable the whole season! Maybe that was the editors' fault, or maybe he didn't give them good material to work with.

Gabe irritated me up to Restaurant Wars, when I thought he should have gone home over Sara. And I did know about the post-production stuff from MeFi, but I didn't have any problems with show-edited Gabe through the finale. I liked him several times, especially because he had a good rapport with Maria, who was my favorite. I would have preferred Dawn or Shota, but if I'd only watched the show and never knew any of the surrounding story, Gabe's win would have been a minor disappointment at the end of a great season.

Last weekend, I met up with a friend who watches the show, and she had no clue about Gabe's firing or any of the story. I guess Bravo's idea was just to never comment and hope that people didn't talk about the story too much. I doubt we'll see Gabe back on the show, but I'd love to see Dawn and Shota come back for an all-star season.
posted by gladly at 7:26 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]

One thing I missed in this episode was the return of the full cast. Usually that happens and I start to recall all the people who left earlier in the season. Like I forgot about Sara of yogurt fame until she was mentioned here.

I wouldn't have noticed anything off about Gabe if it hadn't been brought up here. Since I love Maria I would have kind of trusted her view of him which is obviously positive. Just sucks to watch him walk with the quarter million dollars knowing what we know.

I think Nina (my all-time fave except maybe Melissa) really wanted Dawn to win! What a bummer. That interview with her really shed light on some stuff and she comes off really well - taking credit for the communication issues with Jamie, considering how her style impacted team challenges, etc but also being honest about her disadvantages. I want to eat her food!

I think the most interesting win would have been Shota - consideration of a type of food that isn't usually celebrated on this show.
posted by Emmy Rae at 11:51 AM on July 6

Shota has a new YouTube channel.

Four+ days now and no statement from Bravo or the Top Chef show as an entity.
posted by Nelson at 12:04 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]

Very disappointing that Bravo wasn't prepared for this.
posted by praemunire at 3:24 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]

I don't buy this "how could they have known" BS. They could have known by talking to the waiters and bartenders and line cooks in Austin. It's not remotely a secret among the workers.
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:55 AM on July 7

Well this was a bummer of a winner. It definitely sucks that he's a shitty person, but man fucking Bravo really shat the bed here too.
posted by Carillon at 7:04 PM on July 9

The Onion's take on Tom Colicchio.
posted by Emmy Rae at 7:53 PM on July 12

If you have any further doubt the wrong person won, read this interview with Shota, who comes across more likeable - if that's even possible - than he was on the show. Highlight is how he's restructuring his restaurant as a profit share with his workers.
posted by Superilla at 5:19 PM on July 14 [1 favorite]

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