Warning: spoilers ahead for the Season 18 finale of Top Chef on Bravo.
Another season of Top Chef has come to an end, and the competition was down to Shota Nakajima, Dawn Burrell, and Gabe Erales. The competition in the difficult Season 18 was fierce, but the three finalists proved more than once that they had the culinary skills to deserve the shot at $250,000. In the finale, they showed off a lot of what they've done throughout the season. By the end of the hour, the judges made it official that Gabe Erales is the next Top Chef, and Erales himself stated that Top Chef made show history with his win as "the first Mexican Top Chef."
Gabe Erales won in a finale that showed off yet another one of his complex and clearly tasty sauces, which helped him come out on top of the competition. Shota Nakajima showed off his creativity in bringing dishes with personal touches, and Dawn Burrell wowed the judges with her flavors but sabotaged herself by leaving things off the plate due to a time crunch again. After the judges finally confirmed Erales as the winner, he explained one way that he is the first of his kind when it comes to Top Chef. Erales said:
I'm a little mind blown that I won a quarter million dollars right now, to be honest. I'm very inspired right now. I'm so inspired by learning from the fellow chefs that were here, learning about myself and learning from the judges about what I can do to be a better chef. One of the biggest things that has really warmed my heart is knowing that I am the first Mexican Top Chef. I'm happy to be representing my culture, my cooking, and also a group of people that really operate the kitchens across the U.S.
Gabe Erales' comments after getting the news that he's the next Top Chef were enough to alert fans that he's the first Mexican winner, in case they weren't aware. His win follows a season of Erales bringing elements of his culture to his cooking, and particularly nailing his sauces. In fact, he served up a version of his signature mole sauce in the finale by creating a chichilo negro mole to go with his short rib mushroom dish, and he included a whole lot of ingredients to impress the judges.
While his dishes were hits all around, it seemed pretty clear to me that this was the course that got him the win, and I for one was ready to reach through my TV screen to taste that mole myself if such a thing was possible. Still, he didn't run away with the competition, and there was definitely some suspense down to the moment of the announcement of Gabe Erales' history-making win.
As for what comes next, Top Chef has not yet been renewed for Season 19, but the franchise is still going strong despite the challenges of quarantine production in Season 18. Top Chef Amateurs premiered immediately following the Season 18 finale as the latest of several Top Chef spinoffs. For now, you can look forward to new episodes of Top Chef Amateurs on Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo this summer, along with plenty of other options that are on the way or have already premiered. You can also find earlier seasons of Top Chef streaming on Hulu now.