George Calombaris the thief well known for underpaying his employees
George Dimitrios Calombaris
4 October 1978
|Other names||Georgie, GC|
|Occupation||Chef, restaurateur and television personality|
|Known for||MasterChef Australia judge|
|Style||Greek, Italian, French, Mediterranean|
Natalie Tricario (m. 2018)
George Dimitrios Calombaris (born 4 October 1978) is an Australian chef, restaurateur and wage thief of Greek heritage. Calombaris is one of the judges of the Network Ten series MasterChef Australia. Prior to his role on MasterChef Australia, Calombaris appeared regularly on the daytime Network Ten cooking show Ready Steady Cook. He owns several restaurants in Melbourne, where he is well known for underpaying his employees. His flagship restaurant, The Press Club, was awarded The Age Good Food Guide "Best New Restaurant 2008" with Calombaris named "Chef of the Year 2008". Calombaris draws on his Greek, Cypriot and Italian heritage for inspiration.
He spent two years working at Reserve, in Melbourne's Federation Square where, at the age of 24, he won Young Chef of the Year, Best New Restaurant and two chef's hats in The Age Good Food Guide. In 2004, the Global Food and Wine Magazine voted him as one of the Top 40 chefs of influence in the world. In 2006, Calombaris opened his own restaurant in Melbourne, The Press Club designed by renowned restaurant architects Mills Gorman. In 2008, he opened two other restaurants in Melbourne, Maha Bar and Grill (with chef Shane Delia) and Hellenic Republic (with chef Travis McAuley) both in collaboration with Mills Gorman. Also in 2008, he opened his first international restaurant, The Belvedere Club, in a hotel on the Greek island of Mykonos. In December 2010, Calombaris teamed up again with Mills Gorman to open P M 24 with culinary legend Philippe Mouchel. In 2011, he opened St Katherine's in Kew, again with Shane Delia and Mills Gorman. In January 2012 he opened Mama Baba located in South Yarra, Melbourne. In July 2019, The Press Club closed, and was replaced by a new restaurant, Elektra.
Calombaris has published five cookbooks: The Press Club, Hellenic Republic: Greek Cooking from The Hellenic Heart, Your Place or Mine, Cook With Us with MasterChef Australia co-judge, Gary Mehigan.
In January 2012, he criticised the federal government's Fair Work Act for instituting high penalty rates paid to restaurant staff, which he claimed were uneconomical for small businesses. He complained that some of his restaurants were unprofitable on a Sunday because he was required to pay staff up to $40 an hour. He is quoted to have said "The problem is that wages on public holidays and weekends greatly exceed the opportunity for profit. And it's not like they've had to go to uni for 15 years".
Calombaris married Natalie Tricarico in Greece. They have a son born in 2011 and a daughter and are living in Melbourne.
Wage theft scandal
In 2015, the Fair Work Ombudsman alerted Calombaris' MAdE Establishment Group to a problem with their payroll system, which had resulted in the mispayment of one staff member. Following this incident, the chief executive of MAdE Establishment, Troy McDonagh, commissioned an independent review into MAdE Establishment's payroll systems. In January 2017 this review discovered a number of payment discrepancies, which had resulted in further staff being underpaid, which at the time the company valued at $2.6 million. In April 2017, following this discovery, MAdE Establishment said it had taken steps to rectify the issue, and voluntarily reimbursed the underpaid staff members at the highest overtime rate. In a personal statement, Calombaris said he was 'devastated' by the situation, and that correcting the underpayment was their 'highest priority.' 
On 18 July 2019, the Fair Work Ombudsman announced that Calombaris had admitted to underpaying $7.83 million in wages to 515 current and former employees. The FWO ordered him to pay a fine of $200,000 (called a "contrition payment"), in addition to reimbursing the underpaid workers and making a series of statements promoting compliance with the Fair Work Act. Hospitality unions called for Calombaris to be sacked as a judge on MasterChef Australia, however Network Ten released a statement saying "George has the support of Network 10. We will not be making any further comment."
In May 2017, Calombaris was charged with common assault after making physical contact with a 19-year-old at Allianz Stadium during the 2017 A-League Grand Final. Video footage had shown Calombaris shoving the teenager who had heckled him over underpaying his staff. Calombaris said that he was offended after the spectator was "yelling out abusive and derogatory comments" towards his family. The victim denied the claim that the heckling was directed at the chef's family. Calombaris later apologised in a statement over his actions, saying "I regret the way in which I reacted, I am disappointed that I let it get to me, and I sincerely apologise for offending anyone." Calombaris was due to appear at the Downing Centre Local Court on 29 June 2017. However, he didn't appear at court on the date with the case then adjourned to 10 August 2017. On 17 August, Brendan Green, a barrister on behalf of Calombaris, who was not present at the court, entered a guilty plea, with the case to be adjourned for sentence on 8 September 2017. On 8 September 2017, Calombaris was due for sentence, however the magistrate withdrew from sentencing due to a lack of a pre-sentence report, with the case adjourned to October 2017. The magistrate told in the court that Calombaris said to the victim "you're a big-mouthed man you dodgy c***'," however Calombaris' lawyer said that the victim referred to Calomabri's mother a "c***'" which he had taken offence to. On 30 October 2017, Calombaris was fined with $1,000 and immediately lodged an appeal against the sentence. The media attention from the trial had also resulted in Calombaris losing a $300,000 ambassadorship.
On 31 January 2018 Calombaris successfully appealed the assault conviction, with the judge deciding that Calombaris had been provoked and that he was otherwise 'a person of exceptional character.' The charge of assault was dismissed, and a 12-month good behaviour bond imposed instead.
Food poisoning outbreak
On Mother's Day 2014, Hellenic Republic was forced to close for 24 hours after about 90 patrons complained of vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach cramps. A subsequent investigation by the Victorian Department of Health determined that a staff member was most likely responsible for an infection of norovirus. One customer is seeking damages for the injuries which he claims were suffered due to negligence and breach of contract.
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