George’s restaurants on brink of collapse

 

The restaurant empire of former MasterChef judge George Calombaris is on the brink of collapse, according to reports.

The business, Made Establishment, will meet this afternoon to decide whether to appoint a voluntary administrator, according to reports in The Age and the Herald Sun.

The move puts its 500 employees' jobs in doubt - but it's reported workers will be paid out in full should the restaurants be wound up.

 

A repentant George Calombaris speaks to 7.30’s Leigh Sales after the wage scandal was exposed. Picture: ABC/7.30
A repentant George Calombaris speaks to 7.30’s Leigh Sales after the wage scandal was exposed. Picture: ABC/7.30

 

The development comes six months after the business was caught up in an underpayment scandal, which sparked a storm of negative press for Calombaris.

A Fair Work investigation into Made Establishment found it has underpaid more than 500 workers a colossal $7.8 million.

Calombaris apologised for his role in the controversy and was ordered to make $200,000 "contrition payment".

Soon after the underpayment was laid bare, Channel 10 dumped Calombaris from his role on MasterChef over a pay dispute.

Made Establishment is a collection of 18 Greek restaurants and fast-food outlets, based in Melbourne.

All three MasterChef judges — Gary Mehigan, Matt Preston and George Calombaris — have now been dumped from the show. Picture: Lachie Millard
All three MasterChef judges — Gary Mehigan, Matt Preston and George Calombaris — have now been dumped from the show. Picture: Lachie Millard

 

The business incorporates Greek street food joints Gazi and Jimmy Grants, and Brunswick East eatery Hellenic Republic, recently rebranded as Crofter Dining Room.

"More than colleagues, we are family," the site's website says.

"Our chefs, sommeliers, restaurant managers and wait staff ensure visitors have the best restaurant experiences in Melbourne, thanks to the highest quality ingredients with service that is second to none."

 

Disgruntled worker Orlaith Belfrage from Hellenic Republic in Brunswick. Picture: Stuart McEvoy/The Australian
Disgruntled worker Orlaith Belfrage from Hellenic Republic in Brunswick. Picture: Stuart McEvoy/The Australian

 

Calombaris gave a tearful interview to 7.30 's Leigh Sales last year after the underpayments were exposed.

He said he was "gutted" by the scale of the wage scandal and said it was a "terrible mistake".

He explained his staff had not been paid what they earnt because he was focused on the food, more than the books.

"You're running a million miles an hour, being creative, being someone who can inspire the team with the food that you're cooking, with the way we're serving and all that stuff and you assume that in the back end things are happening at the same speed, but they weren't," he said.

Calombaris has kept a low profile since he was dumped from MasterChef last year.

Channel 10 will have a new line-up of judges for MasterChef this year: former contestant Andy Allen, food writer Melissa Leong and Scottish chef Jock Zonfrillo.


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