Calombaris food empire goes under
George Calombaris has placed his restaurant empire into voluntary administration, six months on from an underpayment scandal that cost the celebrity chef his prized MasterChef role.
The move puts its 500 employees' jobs in doubt - but it's reported workers will be paid out in full should the restaurants be wound up.
"Although we have all continued to work tirelessly and overcome the many challenges we have recently experienced, it is with deep sadness and regret that today Made Establishment has been placed into voluntary administration," Calombaris said in a post on Instagram just after 5.30pm.
"On a personal note, the last few months have been the most challenging I have ever faced. At this time, while personally devastated, I remain thankful to my family, friends, the Made team, our loyal and regular customers."
Craig Shepard and Leanne Chesser of KordaMentha have been appointed voluntary administrators of 22 companies in the Made Establishment Group, which operates 12 venues in Melbourne.
The administration excludes Yo-Chi, which will continue to trade as normal. All other venues have ceased trading immediately. Employees have been paid all outstanding wages and superannuation up to the date of the appointment, KordaMentha said in a statement.
"A major rebranding of a number of high-profile venues including Hellenic Hotel Williamstown (relaunched as Hotel Argentina), Hellenic Republic Brunswick (recently reopened as Crofter Dining Room) and The Press Club (relaunched as Elektra) was unable to turn the business around, despite strong reviews," Mr Shepard said.
"Other factors were generally difficult trading conditions in the hospitality industry in recent years due to the expansion of the on-demand economy via services such as UberEats and Deliveroo, increasing costs, fierce industry competition and changes in consumer tastes to favour cheaper mid-tier dining options."
The administrators will seek alternative operators for the venues. The first meeting of creditors will be held next Thursday.
It comes after Calombaris put his Toorak mansion on the market. He purchased the French provincial-style mansion for $4.75 million in 2013 in his wife's name. They recently sold their Safety Beach holiday home for just over $1 million.
The development comes six months after the business was caught up in an underpayment scandal, which sparked a storm of negative press for Calombaris.
A Fair Work investigation into Made Establishment found it has underpaid more than 500 workers a colossal $7.8 million.
Calombaris apologised for his role in the controversy and was ordered to make $200,000 "contrition payment".
Soon after the underpayment was laid bare, Channel 10 dumped Calombaris from his role on MasterChef over a pay dispute.
Made Establishment is a collection of 18 Greek restaurants and fast-food outlets, based in Melbourne.
The business incorporates Greek street food joints Gazi and Jimmy Grants, and Brunswick East eatery Hellenic Republic, recently rebranded as Crofter Dining Room.
"More than colleagues, we are family," the site's website says.
"Our chefs, sommeliers, restaurant managers and wait staff ensure visitors have the best restaurant experiences in Melbourne, thanks to the highest quality ingredients with service that is second to none."
He said he was "gutted" by the scale of the wage scandal and said it was a "terrible mistake".
He explained his staff had not been paid what they earnt because he was focused on the food, more than the books.
"You're running a million miles an hour, being creative, being someone who can inspire the team with the food that you're cooking, with the way we're serving and all that stuff and you assume that in the back end things are happening at the same speed, but they weren't," he said.
Calombaris has kept a low profile since he was dumped from MasterChef last year.