George Calombaris

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George Calombaris the thief well known for underpaying his employees
George Dimitrios Calombaris

(1978-10-04) 4 October 1978 (age 40)[1]
Other namesGeorgie, GC
OccupationChef, restaurateur and television personality
Known forMasterChef Australia judge
StyleGreek, 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.[2] 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.[3]


Calombaris went to Mazenod College in Mulgrave and studied at Box Hill Institute of TAFE. He won the Bon Land scholarship in 1999 while an apprentice.[4]


He also entered the Bocuse d'Or culinary grand prix in Lyon, France, at just 23-years-old, and finished in 16th position.

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.[3] In 2004, the Global Food and Wine Magazine voted him as one of the Top 40 chefs of influence in the world.[5] In 2006, Calombaris opened his own restaurant in Melbourne, The Press Club designed by renowned restaurant architects Mills Gorman.[6] 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.[6] Also in 2008, he opened his first international restaurant, The Belvedere Club, in a hotel on the Greek island of Mykonos.[3] In December 2010, Calombaris teamed up again with Mills Gorman to open P M 24 with culinary legend Philippe Mouchel.[6] In 2011, he opened St Katherine's in Kew, again with Shane Delia and Mills Gorman.[6] 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.[7]

Calombaris has published five cookbooks: The Press Club, Hellenic Republic: Greek Cooking from The Hellenic Heart,[3] Your Place or Mine, Cook With Us with MasterChef Australia co-judge, Gary Mehigan.

He appears in Who's Who in Australia 2011 edition[8] and appeared at the 2011 Good Food & Wine Show.[9]

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".[10]

Personal life[edit]

Calombaris married Natalie Tricarico in Greece. They have a son born in 2011 and a daughter and are living in Melbourne.[11]

Calombaris is a Melbourne Victory supporter. He was the No.1 ticket holder for the 2012–13 season.[12]


Wage theft scandal[edit]

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.' [13]

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."[14][15][16]


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.[17] Calombaris said that he was offended after the spectator was "yelling out abusive and derogatory comments" towards his family.[18] The victim denied the claim that the heckling was directed at the chef's family.[19] 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.[20] However, he didn't appear at court on the date with the case then adjourned to 10 August 2017.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23] 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.[24]

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.[25]

Food poisoning outbreak[edit]

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.[26]


  1. ^ "George Calombaris Wiki, Age, Height, Wife, Net Worth, Biography". Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  2. ^ Knox, David (11 January 2009). "Food critic becomes Masterchef host". Retrieved 12 January 2009.
  3. ^ a b c d "Hellenic heart, business head". Hospitality Magazine. Archived from the original on 2 March 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2009.
  4. ^ "George Calombaris TAFE ambassador". Box Hill Institute of TAFE. Archived from the original on 3 September 2008. Retrieved 19 July 2009.
  5. ^ "CIT ICON dinner serves up Chef George Calombaris". CIT Website. Canberra Institute of Technology. 13 November 2008. Archived from the original on 16 September 2009. Retrieved 10 July 2009.
  6. ^ a b c d "Mills Gorman Architects". Retrieved 16 May 2014.
  7. ^ Cody, Gemima (2 July 2019). "George Calombaris's Press Club closes and Elektra arises". Good Food. Retrieved 19 July 2019.
  8. ^ "Who's Who pack now boasts Siddle, Hamish and Andy and the MasterChef judges". 9 December 2010.
  9. ^ "George Calombaris". Archived from the original on 3 July 2011. Retrieved 26 May 2011.
  10. ^ "MasterChef slams Fair Work pay rates". Sydney Morning Herald. 9 January 2012. Retrieved 1 January 2013.
  11. ^ Byrne, Fiona (29 July 2011). "Baby is icing on the cake for MasterChef's George Calombaris". Herald Sun. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  12. ^ "Masterchef George named no. 1". Melbourne Victory. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  13. ^ "George Calombaris Apologises after restaurant empire underpays staff of up to $2.6 million". 4 April 2017. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  14. ^ Vedelago, Zach Hope, Cameron Houston, Chris (18 July 2019). "Calls for MasterChef to axe George Calombaris over wages scandal". The Age. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  15. ^ Schneiders, Ben (18 July 2019). "Wage theft is a business model. Let's criminalize it". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  16. ^ "MasterChef judge George Calombaris faces sacking calls over $7.8 million wage underpayment". SBS News. Retrieved 18 July 2019.
  17. ^ STEPHENSON, ALISON (9 May 2017). "Police to probe MasterChef judge George Calombaris' confrontation at the A-League grand final". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  18. ^ "Masterchef's George Calombaris charged with assault after shoving Sydney FC fan". ABC News. 10 May 2017. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  19. ^ Olding, Rachel (10 May 2017). "MasterChef's George Calombaris charged following altercation with Sydney FC fan". Retrieved 15 May 2017 – via The Sydney Morning Herald.
  20. ^ "George Calombaris charged with assault over scuffle with teenager at A-League grand final". 10 May 2017. Retrieved 10 May 2017.
  21. ^ Stephens, Jodie (29 June 2017). "Masterchef judge George Calombaris not in court after alleged A-League assault". The West Australian. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  22. ^ "MasterChef judge George Calombaris pleads guilty to assaulting teenager at A-League grand final". The Daily Telegraph. 17 August 2017. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
  23. ^ Dias, Avani (8 September 2017). "Celebrity chef George Calombaris' assault of A-League fan 'a serious crime', magistrate says". ABC News. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  24. ^ Mitchell, Georgina (20 October 2017). "George Calombaris fined $1000 for punching man at A-League grand final". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  25. ^ Dias, Avani (31 January 2018). "George Calombaris wins appeal against conviction for assault at A-League final". ABC News. Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  26. ^ Cowie, Tom (15 May 2017). "George Calombaris' Hellenic Republic sued over mass food poisoning outbreak". Retrieved 15 May 2017 – via The Sydney Morning Herald.

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