Embattled MasterChef judge George Calombaris has opened up about his battle with mental health after he was found to have underpaid staff by almost $8million.
The celebrity chef has been ordered to give the Government $200,000 after underpaying 515 staff between 2011 and 2017 by more than $7.8million.
Mr Calombaris, 40, apologised to his former and current employees, saying he was ‘deeply sorry for what has happened’ – but insisted he didn’t deliberately underpay his staff.
Embattled MasterChef judge George Calombaris (far right) has opened up about his battle with mental health after he was found underpaying staff by almost $8million
The chef (right with friend Nigella Lawson) has been ordered to pay the Government $200,000 for underpaying 515 staff between 2011 and 2017, the Fair Work Commission announced
Opening up about his battle with mental health throughout the ordeal, the celebrity chef told Good Weekend meditation saved him when he hit ‘darkness’.
Mr Calombaris says it all began in April 2017 when he was hit with two scandals just a month apart – the first being the revelation his businesses underpaid staff for years.
Then in May 2017, a video emerged of Mr Calombaris shoving a 19-year-old man who abused him at a soccer match.
In the days following the video becoming public, he lost hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of deals and was being berated by the media.
‘I was sleep-deprived, resorting to alcohol, erratic, not ‘present’ at home,’ he said.
Reflecting on that period in his life, Mr Calombaris says he ‘didn’t know how to deal with it’ so he began to act out.
In the years since, he has turned to meditation and said it had an instant affect on how he dealt with issues.
‘It was like I’d just scalded my hand on the hotpot and then stuck it in ice water and gone ‘Ahhh’,’ Mr Calombaris said.
He acknowledged that his ‘single-minded drive’ that pushed him to success was also what was pushing him to make reckless decisions.
Mr Calombaris says it all began in April 2017 when he was hit with two scandals just a month apart – the first being the revelation his businesses underpaid staff for years. Pictured: leaving court in 2017 after an incident with a fan at the A-League grand final
‘And this is all from this intense craziness in the kitchen. We’re not MMA fighters, we’re chefs!’ he said.
However, it seems Mr Calomabris’ problems are far from over, with another two of his former staff claiming they were underpaid.
The employees claim there were ripped off after working at his Melbourne CBD restaurant Gazi and Jimmy Grants eatery and their claims are now being investigated, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
When the scandal surrounding Mr Calombaris’ company, Made Establishment, first came to light in 2017, the star blamed the issue on ‘historically poor processes’.
However, following an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman, a number of breaches were identified, including failure to pay split shift allowances, minimum award rates and penalty rates.
Made Establishment also failed to keep records for the number of hours salaried workers had completed, The Age reported.
Mr Calombaris’ company, Made Establishment, was found to have failed to keep records for the number of hours salaried workers had completed
Despite calls from the public and the Australian Council of Trade Unions for Calombaris to be axed from Master Chef, Network Ten have backed the celebrity chef
The deal with the Fair Work Ombudsman will see each of Mr Calombaris’ Melbourne venues audited for the next three years.
His high profile restaurants include Gazi, The Press Club and Hellenic Republic.
The company will have to introduce a new payroll system and workplace relations training will also be given to staff.
He will also have to make a number of statements promoting compliance with the Fair Work Act.
The Fair Work Ombudsman began investigating in 2015 after staff from Made Establishment complained.
Mr Calombaris and his then business partner George Sykiotis spoke out at the time, claiming the issues were resolved.
It wasn’t until Radek Sali became involved in the business in 2016 that more discrepancies were discovered.
The company then reported itself to the Fair Work Ombudsman in 2017. At the time, Mr Calombaris blamed the issue on ‘historically poor processes’.
In an email sent to staff at the time, Mr Calombaris said he was devastated by the error and vowed to repay everyone who had been affected.
‘I am devastated by what has happened and we have been working extremely hard to fix this,’ the email said.
‘I want to be clear that getting it right means ensuring that every single one of our team members is paid what they are entitled to under the industry award, and that any outstanding money owed to staff is rectified.’
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Mr Calombaris for comment.
‘The incorrect payments were identified by Made during a review in early 2017, following a change in ownership and management.
‘After an investigation, the FWO confirmed Made’s finding that employees had been incorrectly classified and underpaid due to incorrect processes and failures within its payroll and human resources functions’
FAIR WORK STATEMENT
‘The court-enforceable undertaking commits Made Establishment to stringent measures to ensure that current and future employees across their restaurant group are paid correctly.
‘Made’s massive back-payment bill should serve as a warning to all employers that if they don’t get workplace compliance right from the beginning, they can spend years cleaning up the mess’