'I take full responsibility for this': Masterchef judge George Calombaris apologises for underpaying staff and says he won't be closing his restaurants

Former Masterchef judge George Calombaris (far left) has apologised for underpaying staff. Image: Graham Denholm/Getty Images
  • Celebrity chef George Calombaris has apologised for underpaying staff at his restaurants $7.8 million.
  • Speaking to ABC 7.30’s Leigh Sales, Calombaris said he takes “full responsibility”for the issue.
  • Current and former employees of Calombaris’ Made business have since been back paid $7.8 million.

Former Masterchef judge Chef George Calombaris has apologised and accepted full responsibility for underpaying staff $7.8 million at his Made company restaurants, according to the ABC.

Speaking to ABC 7.30’s Leigh Sales, Calombaris said he was “gutted” after realising he underpaid staff at several of his restaurants.

“I won’t forget that afternoon in 2017 when we sat there with my new business partners after we’d done a full audit for the business and discovered the underpayments,” Calombaris told 7.30.

“I want to apologise to all my team, both past and present, for the effect I’ve had on them, we’ve had on them. I apologise to them.”

Calombaris added that the underpayment was an oversight and said, “I take full responsibility for this. I’m sorry.”

He explained how, as a young chef around 13 years ago, he banded together with three other partners and opened his first restaurant, before this escalated into several more. He said that while creativity and ideas were flowing, “the sophistication in the back end wasn’t there.”

“There was no CEO, there was no people culture manager, there was no elite finance team like we’ve got now, that can make sure that mistake that we made will never happen again,” he told the ABC.

Calombaris added that he isn’t closing any restaurants and said he wants to be a “voice for change” in the hospitality industry.

“Right now there’s 642 team members that I absolutely adore. We aren’t closing our restaurants, we’re here. And it’s my job as their leader to keep pushing forward and keep speaking this message, not shying away from the mistake we made, but also acknowledging that we fixed it,” he said.

Earlier in July, the Fair Work Ombudsman revealed Made Establishment back paid employees $7.8 million in unpaid wages and super.

However, former waiter at Made Establishment restaurants Orlaith Belfrage accused the company of still owing her unpaid wages of $2,000.

Last week, Network Ten announced that all three cohosts of Masterchef — George Calombaris, Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan — will be leaving the show after 11 seasons. Ironically, it comes after the Network was unable to settle a dispute about their salaries.

“Despite months of negotiation, 10 has not been able to reach a commercial agreement that was satisfactory to Matt, Gary and George,” Ten CEO Paul Anderson in a statement.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Preston, Mehigan and Calombaris all left after Network Ten refused to increase their $1 million-plus salaries by more than 40%.

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