Disgraced celebrity chef George Calombaris reveals he was ‘drinking a lot to deal with the pain’ after being ordered to repay $7.8million in unpaid wages: ‘I thought I was invincible’
Disgraced celebrity chef George Calombaris has spoken out about being caught underpaying staff in a wage scandal.
The former MasterChef judge lost his hospitality company Made Establishment to liquidators in 2020 after being ordered to repay $7.8million in unpaid wages to 515 current and former members of staff.
During an interview on Channel Ten’s The Project on Sunday, the 44-year-old said he was ‘drinking a lot of deal with the pain’ after hitting rock bottom.
George Calombaris (pictured) revealed he was ‘drinking a lot of deal with the pain’ and admitted he thought he was ‘invincible’ before hitting rock bottom
‘There was months of tears, anger and I was drinking a lot to take away the pain but then I snapped out of it and and went “no”,’ he said.
Calombaris admitted he thought he was ‘invincible’ and ‘could get through everything’.
‘I thought I was invincible and I could get through everything because I was taught as a young kid never say you’ve tried,’ he said.
‘I probably needed good management as soon as I went on the television.’
‘There was months of tears, anger and I was drinking a lot to take away the pain but then I snapped out of it and and went “no”,’ he said
MAdE, which had 22 companies, collapsed in February 2020 after being ordered by the Fair Work Ombudsman to pay workers millions in unpaid penalty rates.
Calombaris was personally hit with a $200,000 penalty for the wage rorts but always insisted the underpayments were simply a mistake he blamed on inexperience.
The ex-hospitality boss said the payment error was detected after the company made a self-report, but the publicity that followed made it impossible to keep his businesses alive.
His reputation was further damaged when he was caught on camera attacking a 19-year-old at an A-League grand final between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory.
Calombaris also admitted he thought he was ‘invincible’ and ‘could get through everything’
Calombaris was convicted of assault and fined $1,000, but the damage to his name was so bad his conviction was later overturned.
After hitting rock bottom, he relocated his family to Arthurs Seat, in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, in March 2020, where he has since adopted a new family and community focused outlook on life.
Now, high-flying hoteliers and their glamourous wives have given the former reality TV star a fresh start in hospitality by hiring him as the culinary director for their luxurious beachside venue, Hotel Sorrento.
Calombaris joined the family business, owned by Rob and Anne Pitt and run by their children, Bridget, Marcus, and Myles – who is married to model and Instagram influencer Brooke Hogan – after being acquainted by a famous mutual friend, Eddie McGuire.
The former MasterChef judge lost his hospitality company Made Establishment to liquidators in 2020 after being ordered to repay $7.8million in unpaid wages to 515 current and former members of staff
Timeline of Calombaris’ woes
MAY 15, 2014 – The Department of Health investigates after diners who ate at the Hellenic Republic at Kew fell ill. It is later confirmed norovirus affected about 100 people
APRIL, 2017 – It’s revealed about $2.6 million in back payments were dished out to 162 workers employed by Made Establishment because of payroll ‘discrepancies’ dating back to 2011.
MAY 10, 2017 – Calombaris is charged with assault over a fight with a 19-year-old at an A-League grand final between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory in Sydney a few days earlier
MAY 16, 2017 – Melbourne man David Peter Schreuder sues the Hellenic Republic restaurant and Made Establishment group over the norovirus encephalitis outbreak
AUGUST 17, 2017 – The chef pleads guilty to assault over the A-League incident
SEPTEMBER 8, 2017 – He hands in his Melbourne Victory No. 1 ticket due to the assault
OCTOBER 20, 2017 – Calombaris is fined $1,000 for the A-League assault
FEBRUARY 1, 2018 – His assault conviction is overturned on appeal after a District Court judge agreed with Calombaris’ lawyer that he had suffered significant financial and personal loss, and was unlikely to re-offend
JULY 18, 2019 – The Fair Work Ombudsman fines the MasterChef Australia judge and his Made Establishment company $200,000 for underpaying staff at his restaurants by nearly $8 million
JULY 22, 2019 – The West Australian government suspends its tourism campaign featuring Calombaris over the Fair Work Obudsman fine
JULY 23, 2019 – Calombaris and fellow judges Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan leave MasterChef after contract negotiations fail
FEBRUARY 10, 2020 – It is reported Made could fall into voluntary administration, putting the futures of 500 workers at its 18 restaurants at risk.
MAY 2020- the Yo Chi Frozen Yoghurt chain owned by George Calombaris is told off, marking the end to the celebrity chef’s restaurant empire.