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Top Chef winners now – tragic Covid death, assault arrest and sexual harassment battle

Top Chef has birthed some of America’s most iconic cooks, culinary experts and critics – but the cookery show hasn’t been without its fair share of controversies, either
Top Chef has been birthing some of the US’s top culinary experts since 2006, premiering on Bravo 17 years ago today.
The competition that birthed a thousand spin-off shows, including Top Chef: World All Stars, Top Chef Junior and Top Chef Masters, fans of the programme can get their fill whenever they fancy.
That means there are a whole host of winners who have gone on to do amazing things, from launching their own restaurants to going onto modelling careers.
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But the show hasn’t been without its controversies, either. From winners being arrested to sexual harassment claims, the drama doesn’t end when the cameras stop rolling.
Daily Star takes a look into where some of the winners are now…
Gabe Erales soared to fame when he took the crown for season 18 of Top Chef.
But in July 2021, the star was fired from the Comedor restaurant he worked at in Austin, Texas, over violations of the company’s ethics policy around sexual harassment.
Reports emerged at the time that Gabe had carried on an affair with an employee at the restaurant, where he’d been head chef, and then reduced her hours – allegedly due to her performance.
His boss Philip Speer told the Austin American-Statesman at the time that Gabe was fired due to “repeated violations of the company’s ethics policy as it relates to harassment of women”.
Erales later offered a lengthy social media statement amid the controversy, in which he apologised to his wife and described the affair as a “consensual relationship with a co-worker”.
He clarified: “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.
“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 judgment call and led to my termination after I filmed Top Chef.
“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.”
Top Chef: All Stars LA winner Melissa King might be a certified Sommelier and culinary arts master, but she’s also an iconic model.
The star made their modelling debut in a global campaign for Levi Strauss Pride back in 2018, and went on to model for Gap Inc in 2021.
Openly gay and an LGBTQ+ advocate, Melissa was awarded Grand Marshall for San Francisco Pride in 2016, and went on to be recognised on the Out100 list in 2020.
Top Chef Masters winner Floyd Cardoz sadly lost his life very early into the Covid-19 pandemic, back in March 2020.
The star, who also competed on the regular series of the show, was just 59 years old when he passed away.
He died of complications from Covid, after travelling from Mumbai to New York via Frankfurt early in March. He was quickly admitted to a New Jersey hospital with a fever and tested positive for the virus.
Top Chef host Padma Lakshmi paid tribute to the star, who was known for his Tabla restaurant.
She wrote: “@floydcardoz made us all so proud. Nobody who lived in NY in the early aughts could forget how delicious and packed Tabla always was.
“He had an impish smile, an innate need to make those around him happy, and a delicious touch. This is a huge loss not only for the professional food world, but for Indians everywhere. My heart goes out to his wife Barkha and their whole family. RIP Floyd.”
Top Chef season nine winner Paul Qui found himself in hot water back in 2016, when he was arrested on suspicion of assaulting his girlfriend.
An arrest affidavit obtained by People magazine at the time saw police responding to a violent incident at Qui’s resident, arriving to find the chef with “blood all over his face, arms, legs and clothing”.
His girlfriend was found crying, holding her young son.
She claimed Qui had alcohol and drugs including cocaine, Xanax and marijuana in his system, and became angry when he suspected his friends had been flirting with her.
An arresting officer noted a cut, bruises and a swollen jaw affecting Qui’s partner.
Later, Qui claimed to Tatler Asia: “It escalated quickly, items were being thrown at me—my phone, my laptop, my chef’s knife. I was scared that it was going to get worse, so I called my closest friends and asked them to call the police.
“My girlfriend at the time was trying to leave the apartment and I thought it was a bad idea for her to go since her son was there. She tried to push her way out and she stumbled into her son. A good friend of mine showed up and tried to take me away.
“Being messed up, I still went back to my apartment to get my phone and wallet; then the cops arrived and arrested me. I was fairly incoherent at this point and wasn’t making sense.”
Qui remained in jail for three days, before his girlfriend and her family showed up to collect him. He voluntarily checked into rehab in Texas and underwent a 30-day detox programme – and now wants to move on from the incident.
Top Chef season six winner Michael Voltaggio isn’t the only famous face in his family.
He’s been known for several high-profile relationships over the years, after splitting from his ex-wife Kerri Adams, with whom he shares two daughters – Olivia and Sophia.
From 2019 until 2021, Michael dated fashion designer Sami Miro, before going on to tie the knot with iconic actress Bria Vinaite in a Hawaii wedding in 2022.
Bria is best known for her role in The Florida Project, along with appearing in music videos for Drake, Alicia Keys and G-Eazy.
Life hasn’t been easy for Top Chef season five winner Hosea Rosenberg since he found victory on the cookery show.
In April 2020, the star confirmed that his young daughter Sophie was battling a rare genetic disorder.
Writing in an emotional Instagram caption, Hosea explained: “We cry a lot these days. Not because of the threat of coronavirus, or because our restaurants are hurting, but because of something much more devastating to our family.
“Our daughter Sophie, who turns 3 at the end of May, is sick. She was recently diagnosed with MCTO (multicentric carpotarsal osteolysis) – one of 30 people to ever be confirmed with this extremely rare genetic disorder.
“It’s progressive and degenerative, and at this time there is no cure and no effective treatment. Her joints – primarily her wrists and ankles – are failing and will continue to degrade. Her kidneys are at risk,” he explained in a devastating message.
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The star went on to thank his family and friends for providing “light and love” in their time of need, adding: “BUT HOPE IS NOT LOST! We have so much support and love from our community, our families, and our friends. We will keep fighting and keep living the best lives we can.
“We are researching, networking, and making huge strides. There is light. There is love. There is hope. If you are inclined to learn more and to help spread the word, the foundation we recently set up is called Sophie’s Neighbourhood.
“This little warrior princess is all the light and strength I need in my life. She is strong and will be my inspiration forever. Hugs and kisses from the Rosenberg family!”
In an update in March 2023, Hosea wrote that despite the “endless doctor appointments, medical interventions, tests, scans, therapies, corrective devices, shots, blood draws, surgeries, X-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs, pain and discomfort”, Sophie continues to be a “warrior princess”.
He added: “She shouldn’t have to do this. But she does. And she knows how to be strong.”

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