Lifestyle Food 'Top Chef' Winner Gabe Erales Says He's 'Deeply and Sincerely Sorry' amid Sexual Misconduct Scandal "My personal growth will be a perpetual apology in seeking forgiveness," Gabe Erales said after winning Top Chef: Portland By Nicholas Rice Nicholas Rice Instagram Twitter Associate Editor, PEOPLE People Editorial Guidelines Published on July 24, 2021 04:04 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: David Moir/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Top Chef champion Gabe Erales is issuing an apology. On Friday, the winner of the most recent season of the famed Bravo series addressed allegations of sexual misconduct against him, admitting he's been trying to better himself since news of the scandal first broke. Back in December, Erales was fired from Comedor — the Austin-based restaurant where he was head chef — after he returned from filming the cooking competition series in Portland, Oregon, which finished airing earlier this month. While speaking with the Austin American-Statesman, a boss from the restaurant, Philip Speer, told the outlet that Erales had been fired for "repeated violations of the company's ethics policy as it relates to harassment of women." Padma Lakshmi Says She Was 'Not Aware' of Allegations Against Top Chef Winner: 'This Should Be Investigated' Sharing an open letter to Instagram, Erales addressed his situation and began his statement, writing, "The last three weeks have been a trying time of reflection and personal growth." "I have been silent not because I thought it would go away, but because I needed time with my family to start the healing process before making a public statement," he explained. "To say I am 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." Continuing his candid statement, Erales went on to apologize to his wife, who "has always been by my side supporting my career and our family." "I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to be a part of Top Chef; however, I must continue to acknowledge my mistakes including the termination from my former job," he said. "To clarify, unbeknownst to my wife, I had a consensual relationship with a co-worker and later reduced her work hours, which in combination was a poor judgement [sic] call and led to my termination after I filmed Top Chef." Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories. "I was suddenly at the lowest point of my life — potentially losing my family while I had already lost my job," Erales continued. "I am deeply and sincerely sorry for the impact that my poor decisions had on those involved. My personal growth will be a perpetual apology in seeking forgiveness." Then noting that he has taken "necessary steps to be a better husband, father, chef and leader" through "therapy and spirituality," the chef added, "I recognize that part of an executive chef role is to set the culture and uphold the values of the restaurant." "I am committed to doing the personal and professional work every day to create a positive and safe work environment in whatever follows for me professionally," Erales concluded. "I look forward to creating food that represent my heritage and culture as the chef I know I can be, but my main focus now is family and those that continue to support me during this difficult time." RELATED VIDEO: Gail Simmons Celebrates 18 Years of 'Top Chef' and Talks About How It's Changed in the Last Year After allegations first surfaced following the season finale of Top Chef: Portland earlier this month, host Padma Lakshmi urged Bravo not to take the claims lightly. "As someone who has been sexually harassed, this topic is a serious one and merits openness. We filmed Top Chef in October of last year & were not aware of the allegations now coming out about Gabe. This should be investigated & the network should consider its best action," Lakshmi said on Twitter at the time, before noting that no allegations have been made directly to the network. "To be clear, no one has alleged sexual harassment on the record or otherwise to Bravo/Top Chef and we judges didn't have any indication of inappropriate behavior from Gabe during his time on set," she added, clarifying to her followers. Top Chef Amateurs Trailer Shows 24 Home Cooks Going Head-to-Head — Watch At the time, many fans of the show also shared their confusion after the series made no mention of Erales' win on its social media accounts, also pointing out that Erales didn't appear on Andy Cohen's Watch What Happens Live alongside the show's judges, a custom from past years following the season finale. Looking ahead, Erales now plans to open a new restaurant in Austin in fall 2022 — called Bacalar — which will feature Yucatan cuisine, according to Eater Austin.