George Calombaris dumped by first major sponsor Tourism WA after caught underpaying staff almost $8 million

Masterchef’s George Calombaris has been dumped by major sponsor WA Tourism (Photo by Ryan Pierse, Getty Images)

UPDATE: George Calombaris, along with fellow judges Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan, will not return to Masterchef next year after they could not negotiate a commercial agreement, according to Network Ten.

  • After being discovered having underpaid staff by $7.8 million, sponsor WA Tourism has dropped celebrity chef George Calombaris from its tourism campaign.
  • It’s the first major sponsor to dump Calombaris since the news of the scandal broke last week.
  • The campaign included television advertisements played during episodes of Network Ten’s Masterchef — on which Calombaris is a co-host — as well as online content. Network Ten has said it will stand by the disgraced chef.

Tourism WA has become the first sponsor to walk away from George Calombaris after the Masterchef judge was found by Fair Work Australia to have underpaid 500 staff by $7.8 million.

The tourism board has pulled ads featuring the Masterchef judge fromits long-running “Gourmet Escape” campaign that showcases the state’s culinary scene, which includes chefs like “George Calombaris who’ve fallen in love with the region’s unique offering”.

“We’ve paused all of our work with George for now and we’re talking to his management about recouping some of the costs that we’ve paid him,” WA Tourism managing director Brodie Carr told 6PR Radio.

“We’ll continue with the campaign that we’re doing with Masterchef but probably not with George.”

The pulled ads were part of a major initiative aimed at attracting Australians on the eastern seaboard to visit Western Australia, with no less than five episodes filmed in the state this season.

The decision to drop Calombaris was supported by different Australian unions, including Victoria Trades Hall which has publicly called for Masterchef to drop Calombaris as a judge.

It’s the latest consequence the celebrity chef has faced since his company Made Establishment was forced to pay to back-pay workers and he was personally fined $200,000 for the breach.

Auditors have also been appointed to check pay and conditions are met by the company every until 2022. In addition, Calombaris has agreed to undertake “speaking engagements to educate the restaurant industry on the importance of workplace compliance”.

Network 10 — which has enjoyed the success of the Masterchef franchise — said it stood by him when the Fair Work Commission made its decision last week.

It had not responded to Business Insider Australia’s requests for comment however following Tourism WA’s decision to drop Calombaris.

Business Insider Australia has also contacted Calombaris sponsors Suisse Wellness and Masterchef major partner Coles.