Shakeup at Comedor After High-Profile Chef Out
Philip Speer speaks about national search for new chef
Last Tuesday, Dec. 15, co-owner of Comedor and Assembly Kitchen Philip Speer, along with co-owner William Ball, announced via email that Gabe Erales, executive chef of their acclaimed Downtown restaurant Comedor, is no longer with the restaurant due to his misconduct.
"Effective immediately, Comedor Executive Chef Gabe Erales is no longer with the restaurant due to repeated violation of our policies and for behavior in conflict with our values. In his absence, Chef and Comedor partner Philip Speer will be helming the kitchen. After the New Year, we will begin the search for a permanent replacement."
Erales has been a fixture in the Austin hospitality scene for a number of years before his Comedor appointment. Hailing from El Paso, Erales worked with René Redzepi of Noma (in both Copenhagen and Tulum) and Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due (Erales eventually opened Dai Due Taqueria as executive chef). He won Cochon555 in 2018 and 2019, and has been focused on upscale Mexican cuisine at Comedor since 2019. We reached out to Erales via Instagram and email, but did not receive a response.
We spoke with Speer over the phone and confirmed that Erales was terminated. Speer said it's been difficult in the time leading up to the decision but acknowledged the guidance of their third-party HR department (and hotline) in making a decision: "Through the process with the HR we had implemented, we knew what we had to do, the process, the direction, was clear."
Speer continued, "Myself and William are advocates for change in the restaurant community and things have to be identified and acted upon."
The current statement to the press is where they are leaving the story currently, but the bottom line is there was alleged misconduct. "There were behaviors that went against our company policy that was clearly stated, [and] a major conflict of our core values," he said. "I believe that radical change starts with radical action."
As for financial stakes in Comedor, or adjacent businesses Assembly and Garage, Erales is not a financial partner. "There was no real partnership. He did have the opportunity to have partnership in Assembly, but Assembly hasn't even been fully formed. But he is not a stakeholder in our company. Period," stated Speer. "He had opportunities to go into partnership through employment after a certain amount of time et cetera et cetera, but as of where today [Tuesday, Dec. 15] stands, there is no termination of any sort of partnership agreement because no partnership agreement existed."
When asked to speak in terms of employees of Comedor, past and present, and what they may be feeling about the situation, Speer said, "I can tell you about my range of emotions – everything from sadness to anger to disappointment to fear, and I am sure that everybody in the company feels the same way. There's some feeling of relief, there's some feelings of sadness, there's a whole gamut of emotions."
Moving forward, Speer said he is conducting a national search for a new chef. "Comedor is a sum of all its parts, and Gabe's contribution was amazing, there's no doubt about that, there's no discrediting that. Gabe made up Comedor, but Gabe does not make up Comedor, right? We have a strong team that will continue to execute in his absence. And we have myself, who is a tenured professional with lots of experience who will continue to help lead the team while we do a nationwide search for a new chef and whenever we find her, I'm going to be so happy about that."