George Calombaris

George Calombaris

George CalombarisGeorge Calombaris is a popular chef and restaurateur with a number of restaurants in Melbourne but best known as a judge on MasterChef Australia.

His Melbourne restaurant, The Press Club was awarded The Age Good Food Guide "Best New Restaurant 2008". He was named 'Chef of the Year 2008'.

George went to Mazenod College high school in Mulgrave and studied at Box Hill Institute of TAFE.

George was the No.1 ticket holder of Melbourne Victory for the 2012/13 season.

The Herald Sun Digital Edition: HOW IT ALL WENT SOUR | July 2019

George Calombaris' rise to become the country's most famous chef has been meteoric. But the MasterChef star's return to earth has been equally spectacular.

Over the past three years, he has made headlines for the wrong reasons.

This has included clashes with fans at a Melbourne Victory soccer game and even with his elderly neighbour over a constructing a backyard gym.

The question being asked now is can he recover from revelations his company has had to backpay 515 current and former employees $7.8 million between 2011 and 2017? But people forget Calombaris has transformed himself plenty of times before.

At age 24 he was recognised at one of the best chefs in the country, working from his Federation Square restaurant , Reserve. He learnt critics don't pay the bills.

"I was 24 when I won the Young Chef of the Year and I became this egotistical little wanker," Calombaris later said. "That was quite obnoxious , and not what I'm about now."

His current MAdE Establishment empire with seven cookbooks, 16 restaurants and more than 600 staff grew when he teamed up with property investor George Sykiotis and steel industry veterans Joe Calleja and Tony Lachimea.

A series of restaurants opened and flourished.

The Press Club, in the old Herald & Weekly Times building in Flinders St, was first in 2006. This was followed by Maha and Hellenic Republic. But rumours abounded of the level of debt used to fuel this growth.

A move from fine dining to more casual eating was blamed for a serious rejig of the business model over the past six years.

The underpayments issue came to light when former Swisse chief Radek Sali bought into the business in late 2016. Under Mr Sali other previous investors were bought out.

An early check of the books was so worrying that high-powered professional services heavyweight KPMG were brought in. They confirmed the worst fears.

The whole affair was selfreported to the Fair Work Ombudsman by MAdE Establishment on April 3, 2017.

The first reports were that chaotic accounting had left 162 staff short-changed to the tune of $2.6 million. But the issue dragged on with rumours over the years that millions more were being found.

It is understood most of the $7.8 million was repaid by October 2017, but Fair Work had to finish its investigation.

Then in May that same year, Calombaris got in trouble after allegedly shoving a 19-year-old as his beloved Melbourne Victory was beaten 4-2 in a penalty shootout by Sydney FC.

The famous chef would win an appeal against a conviction over the incident.

It allegedly erupted after Calombaris' mother was insulted and he was also being goaded about the pay incident . But the damage was done and he lost two ambassadorship roles within days of the incident, including Bulla Dairy and motor group ULR.

In 2018, Calombaris was on the receiving end from his neighbour in Toorak this time over the construction of a backyard gym.

His neighbour Helen Elsworth , 71, said he was "the worst neighbour I've had in my life" .

Earlier this year, the Press Club closed as Calombaris worked to rejig his vision of the business. And now with Fair Work revealing the full extent of the underpayment issue there are still furious calls by former staff for him to be booted off MasterChef.

Those close to Calombaris yesterday said he would survive the latest controversy.

❊ Web Links ❊

George Calombaris

Our apology: employee underpayments (PDF)

❊ Also See... ❊


Gazi | Restaurant

Hellenic Republic | Brighton

Jimmy Grants

The Press Club

Disclaimer: Check with the venue before making plans...

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