Celebrity chef and MasterChef judge George Calombaris has apologised for underpaying his restaurant staff in his first interview since the scandal broke this month.
Calombaris’ interview will appear on ABC‘s 7.30 on Wednesday night, during which he told host Leigh Sales he was “gutted” when he realised the extent of the underpayments.
“It takes a long time to build a reputation, in your case 25 years of work, and then you can lose it in a week,” Sales said to Calombaris in the interview. “What has been the toll of that on you?”
In response, Calombaris bowed his head for a long period of time as he gathered his thoughts.
"I love this industry," he finally answered with a shaky voice. "I really do, and I love every opportunity that it's given me."
It was 2017 when the tide began to turn on Calombaris' career after it was revealed that the reality star had underpaid 200 hospitality staff by $2.6 million.
Earlier this month, that figure was announced as much higher. It was reported that the 40-year-old had underpaid more than 500 employees by $7.8 million.
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.
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.