CANBERRA (Australia): Australia most prolific and celebrity chef George Calombaris has regretted over underpaying his restaurant staff.
The chef says he is sorry for underpaying his restaurant staff and hopes he can now be a “voice for change” in the hospitality industry.
Speaking publicly for the first time about the matter, the former MasterChef judge said he was ‘gutted’ when he realised he had underpaid staff at a number of his restaurants $7.8 million.
His company MAdE has since back paid the current and former employees, and will make a $200,000 “contrition payment” under a court-enforceable undertaking made with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
He told 7.30 that he would not forget the afternoon in 2017 when they sat there with his new business partners after they had done a full audit for the business and discovered the underpayments.
He added that he wanted to apologise to all his team, both past and present, for the effect he had on them. ‘I apologise to them.’
He said the underpayment was an oversight and that his employees “are everything to us”.
Here’s how to get what you’re owed if you’re worried you’re not being paid correctly. “I’m not here to blame anyone,” he said. “I take full responsibility for this. I’m sorry.
“The thing about 13 years ago, you’re a young chef, 26 years of age, you want to open your first restaurant, you get together with three other partners at that point, and you open the first one, then the second one opens, the third one, the creativity is flying, the ideas are flying, the dreaming is there.
“But the sophistication in the back end wasn’t there.
“There was no CEO, there was no people culture manager, there was no elite finance team like we’ve got now, that can make sure that mistake that we made will never happen again.”
Calombaris said he now wanted to be a “voice for change”.
“Right now there’s 642 team members that I absolutely adore. We aren’t closing our restaurants, we’re here. And it’s my job as their leader to keep pushing forward and keep speaking this message, not shying away from the mistake we made, but also acknowledging that we fixed it.”
Calombaris was dumped from a major West Australian tourism campaign after the underpayment scandal broke.