George Calombaris plans to launch a new venture in an effort to restore his reputation after the celebrity chef became embroiled in a $7.8 million wage scandal.
The former MasterChef judge is currently exploring a plot of land on a shopping street in Rye, a seaside town on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula.
Calombaris will be funded by business partner Philipe Hatzikourtis and plans to design the mystery business with local builder Ivo Baldari.
Former Masterchef judge George Calombaris is expected to open a new restaurant in Rye, a seaside town on Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula
Calombaris, along with business partner Philipe Hatzikourtis and builder Ivo Baldari, opened The Hellenic House Project in Highett, Melbourne’s southeast, last month (pictured)
The trio recently collaborated on a new Greek-Australian restaurant, The Hellenic House Project, which opened last month in Highett, in the south-east of the city.
The venue offers Greek classics such as pita, souvlakia, and spanakopita, with diners able to purchase a signed copy of Calombaris’ book “Just George” for $50.
Daily Mail Australia contacted Calombaris for comment.
The new venture comes after the former Masterchef judge, who co-hosted with Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan until 2020, was caught underpaying more than 500 employees.
In 2019, Calombaris was ordered to repay $7.8 million in back wages to 515 current and former employees.
He was fined $200,000 for underpaying his staff between 2011 and 2017 and lost his hospitality company Made Establishment to liquidators.
MAdE, which had 22 companies, collapsed in February 2020 after being ordered by the Fair Work Ombudsman to pay workers millions in unpaid fines.
Calombaris was personally hit with a $200,000 fine for the wage damage, but always maintained that the underpayment was simply a mistake he blamed on inexperience.
He said the payment error was discovered after the company self-reported, but the publicity that followed made it impossible to keep his business afloat.
“We apologize to all our affected team members, past and present – as it is our people who make our restaurants great, and our priority is to ensure that all our employees feel respected, rewarded and supported in their role,” said he said in a statement.
Calombaris (pictured arriving at court at Sydney’s Downing Center in 2018) was fined $200,000 between 2011 and 2017 for underpaying his staff to $7.8 million
The former Masterchef judge co-hosted with Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan until 2020
“We are committed to acting as a force for change in the industry and leading by example when it comes to building and promoting supportive, healthy and compliant hospitality workplaces.”
His reputation was further damaged when he was caught on camera assaulting a 19-year-old during an A-League grand final between Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory.
Calombaris was convicted of assault and fined $1,000, but the damage to his name was so bad that his conviction was later overturned.
The Masterchef star admitted that he hit rock bottom and drank heavily to ease the pain of his company’s failures.
“There were months of tears, anger and I drank a lot to take the pain away, but then I snapped and went ‘no’,” he told Channel 10 in 2021.
Calombaris admitted in the candid interview that he thought he was “invincible.”
“I thought I was invincible and I could get through anything because I was taught as a young kid never to say you tried and worked damn hard,” he said.
George Calombaris (pictured) said he learned from his mistakes after hitting rock bottom
“I probably needed good management as soon as I got on television.”
In the aftermath of the assault, the celebrity chef moved his family to the Mornington Peninsula, the same location where he now plans a new venture.
In 2020, Calombaris was appointed culinary director of the recently redeveloped Sorrento Hotel, and is in the running to return to the job this year.
Calombaris joined the family business owned by Rob and Anne Pitt after becoming acquainted with a famous mutual friend, Eddie McGuire.