Austin chef Gabe Erales, who was recently let go from buzzy Mexican restaurant Comedor, is popping back up as a contestant on the 18th season of Bravo’s cooking competition show Top Chef. The show, which is set in Portland, Oregon this season, will debut on Thursday, April 1, at 7 p.m.
Erales was executive chef at the much-lauded Comedor from its opening in April 2019 through December 2020, when he was discharged for “repeated violations of our policies and for behavior in conflict with our values.” Top Chef’s Portland filming took place in September and October.
An El Paso native, Erales also worked at Noma in Copenhagen and Mexico City, and Dai Due Taqueria (which closed during the pandemic), Fonda San Miguel, La Condesa, and Geraldine’s. His bio on Bravo says that he is “currently working on a new restaurant concept that he hopes to announce soon.”
Erales is not the only contestant on this season of Top Chef with ties to Austin — Dawn Burrell was a sous chef at Uchiko before opening Southern restaurant Kulture in Houston, and Sasha Grumman was chef de cuisine at Launderette (both are still in Houston). Kristen Kish, the winner of Top Chef in Season 10 and chef at Austin’s Arlo Grey, will serve as a judge on the show.
Top Chef also launched the career of Austin chef Paul Qui, who won Season 9 of the show. The chef was charged with assault in 2016 (the case was dismissed in 2018) and has been embroiled in several other legal battles. He has since closed most of his restaurants in Austin and Houston.
This year’s competition will see the 15 chefs through 14 to 15 weeks of cooking challenges. These include crabbing on the Oregon coast and feeding workers on the frontlines of COVID-19.