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'I'm gutted it's come to this.' George Calombaris' restaurants have been put into voluntary administration.

The restaurant empire of former MasterChef judge George Calombaris has been put into voluntary administration, with most venues required to stop trading immediately.

KordaMentha, an advisory and investment firm, has been appointed as administrators of 22 companies in Calombaris’ Made Establishment group.

According to a statement from KordaMentha this afternoon, “The appointment excludes the Yo-Chi operations which will continue to trade as usual.”

“All other venues have stopped trading immediately. Employees have been paid all outstanding wages and superannuation up to the date of the appointment.”

Made was founded by Calombaris 13 years ago and currently operates 12 restaurants and food venues in Melbourne.

George Calombaris appeared on the ABC in 2019 to explain himself. Post continues below video.

Video via ABC 7.30

Calombaris shared his “deep sadness and regret” earlier today on Instagram.

“To all my team, I truly regret it has come to this. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your loyalty and friendship,” he wrote.

“On a personal note, the last few months have been the most challenging I have ever faced…  I am so sorry all our collective efforts have not proved to be enough. I’m gutted that it’s come to this.”

 

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The news comes six months after the company was caught in an underpayment scandal, which saw founding shareholder Calombaris, 41, hit with a wave of negative press.

Made Establishment – a collection of Hellenic-inspired restaurants in Melbourne, including Hellenic Republic, Press Club and Gazi – self-reported to the Fair Work Ombudsman in 2017, admitting it had underpaid a significant number of their employees.

Two years later, it was discovered the underpayments were much more than first reported, totalling $7.8 million. Calombaris subsequently back-paid 515 current and former employees and a further $16,371 was back-paid to nine employees of Jimmy Grants.

The Fair Work Ombudsman fined Calombaris and his Made Establishment company $200,000. Unions were disappointed by this result and called on the federal government to address wage theft penalties and there were also calls for Calombaris to be fired from MasterChef, though the Channel 10 show initially stood by him.

Mamamia’s daily entertainment podcast The Spill on George Calombaris’ underpayment scandal. Post continues below audio.

Calombaris apologised for the underpayment, saying: “It is our people that make our restaurants great, and it is our priority to ensure all of our employees feel respected, rewarded and supported in their role”.

Less than a week later, he and his two co-judges Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan announced they were leaving MasterChef after 11 highly successful seasons after contract negotiations with Network 10 broke down.

“I won’t forget that afternoon in 2017 when we sat there with my new business partners, after we’d done a full audit for the business, and discovered the underpayments,” Calombaris told ABC‘s 7.30 in July 2019.

“I want to apologise to all my team, both past and present, for the effect I’ve had on them, we’ve had on them. I apologise to them.”

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He said his employees “are everything to us”.

“I’m not here to blame anyone,” he said. “I take full responsibility for this. I’m sorry.”

what did George Calombaris do
Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris all left MasterChef in 2019. Image: Supplied.

Calombaris said the speed in which his restaurants expanded meant his back end processes were not up to scratch.

"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."

He said he now wanted to be a "voice for change" within the hospitality industry.

He said the industry needed to make sure their processes were just as good as their food and service.

"They have to seek advice, they need to make sure they're on top of... the food, the service, the great wine, the great dishes, that at the back it needs to be just as delicious.

Channel 10 will debut a new trio of judges for this year's season of MasterChef, including food writer Melissa Leona, chef Jock Zonfrillo and former contestant Andy Allen.

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