Celebrity chef George Calombaris has been axed as the face of a major Australian tourism campaign after confessing to underpaying his employees by AU$7.8 million (NZ$8.1 million).
The MasterChef judge has been dumped from Western Australian Tourism's 'gourmet escape' campaign, believed to be the first major sponsor to publicly cut ties with him.
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Calombaris' treatment of his restaurant staff has been slammed by WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia as "terrible", reports ABC Australia.
A public statement from Calombaris' Made Establishment Group acknowledges it "failed to correctly pay many employees" and "expresses… sincere regret and apologises for the conduct that resulted in the contraventions".
Calombaris is accused by workers at his Hellenic Republic restaurant of having little regard for their wellbeing.
"It is quite poisonous - it's a hard thing on everyone's mental health I think. There would be so many issues within the industry," former Hellenic Republic chef Aidan Carter told the Daily Mail.
Carter says he was underpaid for four of the five years he worked at Calombaris' restaurant, having to work may unpaid hours and on incorrect rates.
Although the public apology claims 515 current and former employees have been back-paid AU$7.83 million, Carter says he and other workers are still out of pocket.
"I think they are putting out the message that everyone has been paid, but there is a small group of us who have been in contact (with the company) for at least 18 months now and I'm really getting no response."
It's not the first time Calombaris has gotten into trouble.
In 2017, he was filmed shoving a teenager at a football match in Australia.