CANBERRA (Australia) Celebrity chef George Calombaris has been removed from a major West Australian tourism campaign after he admitted to underpaying employees at his restaurants by $7.8 million.
Tourism WA is the first major sponsor to part ways with the controversial chef. Tourism West Australia had a contract with Calombaris to feature in television advertisements and online content to “design your own gourmet escape in the state.
The ads had been running for the past few weeks on the eastern seaboard during episodes of the hit television show MasterChef, in which Calombaris features as one of three judges.
WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said it was a very disappointing development.
“What George Calombaris has done is terrible,” Mr Papalia said.
“People should pay their employees what they’re owed and what they deserve, and that’s really disappointing.”
Tourism WA has a separate contract with MasterChef, which has stood by its star, and five episodes of the program were filmed in the west during WA Week from July 1–11.
The “Create Your Own Gourmet Escape in WA” campaign with Calombaris was intended to highlight tourism in Perth and the South West regions, and “encourage visitors to create their own gourmet escape in WA and book a holiday now”.
But a spokeswoman for Mr Papalia said the contract with the celebrity chef had been cancelled because of a backlash after his hospitality group backpaid $7.8 million in unpaid wages and superannuation.