Australian celebrity chef underpaid employees US$5.62 mil

A chef best-known for his role on TV’s ‘Masterchef Australia’ faces scrutiny for underpaying his employees. (Facebook pic)

SYDNEY: An Australian celebrity chef said on Thursday he had underpaid hundreds of his restaurant employees by nearly AU$8 million (US$5.62 million) over six years.

George Calombaris – who shot to worldwide fame through his role on the television show “Masterchef” – said he would repay 515 current and former employees who were underpaid between 2011 and 2017.

“We apologise to all our affected team members, past and present,” Calombaris said in a statement.

“It is our priority to ensure all of our employees feel respected, rewarded and supported in their roles.”

The underpayments came to light after a four-year investigation by Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman, which looks into workplace complaints.

Calombaris was also fined AU$200,000 as part of a “contrition payment”.

Australia’s hospitality union, United Voice, criticised the fine as too small.

“If someone deliberately took US$1,000 out of someone else’s bank account, there would be a high likelihood of a criminal conviction for theft,” the union’s national secretary, Jo-anne Schofield, said in a statement.

“But when you’re a multimillionaire restaurateur, celebrity chef, you can take US$7.83 million in wages from your workers and get away with a contrition payment.”