George Calombaris bans 'racist' diner in scathing response to one-star review of his new Melbourne restaurant

One of Australia's most popular celebrity chefs has issued a scathing response to a one-star review of his new restaurant, branding the diner a "racist" and banning them from ever returning to the venue. 

George Calombaris, a former judge on the beloved competitive cooking show MasterChef Australia, personally responded to the negative feedback in a strongly worded rant shared to his Instagram on Saturday, which was posted alongside a snippet of the review in question. 

The diner had rated Calombaris' newly opened restaurant the Hellenic House Project - situated in Highett, south-east Melbourne - one out of five stars for food, service, and atmosphere. 

"Like others, we've dined in many, many restaurants and were keen to try this 'authentic Greek' experience," the review read.

"It was far from it. Practically none of the staff were Greek (including the manager who was of Indian descent) and the menu didn't reflect what has been posted online.

"Calombaris - this place is a joke and you've certainly got a few people fooled."

While the review wasn't included on Calombaris' Instagram in full, the rest - which was uploaded to Google - claimed the patron had waited 45 minutes for their food and had to follow up on the status of their order with a staff member.

"We weren't offered any compensation except that our food would be out in five minutes, which it wasn't. I should've realised it was going to be a disaster when I had to ask for the menu after 10 minutes," the patron said.

"Worst 'non'-dining experience ever."

The full review - screengrab from Google
The full review was posted to Google on Saturday. Photo credit: Google

But Calombaris didn't mince his words either in his withering response, acknowledging that while a mistake had been made with their order, he would not tolerate the diner's "racist" outlook on his staff. 

"Won't lie. I am 99 percent a very positive human. But this is horrible. Yes. We made a mistake with your order. We are humans. And yes, my manager is Indian. You know who you are, guys. You're not welcome ever to @thehellenichouseproject," he wrote. 

"You don't have to speak Greek or be a Greek to work at THHP [the Hellenic House Project]. You just have to be a good human. I am so proud of my team. I hate racism. F**kin' hate it."

The majority have backed Calombaris' response to the patron, with fellow celebrity chefs and former MasterChef contestants sharing their support for the 44-year-old.

"Well done George, people like this should just stay home. And that is a very polite way to say what I really feel like saying," French-Australian chef, restaurateur and television presenter Manu Feildel chipped in.

In another comment, Calombaris' former MasterChef co-host Gary Mehigan shared a quote from human rights activist and United Nations representative Mohamad Safa: "Our world is not divided by race, colour, gender or religion. Our world is divided into wise people and fools. And fools divided themselves by race, colour, gender, or religion."

Fellow Melbourne-based chef Daniel Dobra urged Calombaris to "name and shame", while restaurateur, chef and food writer Karen Martini weighed in: "There is no room for such negativity and attitude, leave race out of it, and eat your [souvlaki] quietly or stay home!'

The Hellenic House Project, which opened three months ago, marks Calombaris' first foray back into hospitality after it was revealed he had been underpaying his staff in a highly publicised scandal - resulting in the collapse and bankruptcy of his previous business, Made Establishment. In July 2019, the 44-year-old was ordered to repay AU$7.8 million in unpaid wages to 515 employees.

His new venture is said to offer a modern twist on traditional Greek fare, spanning street-food staples and home-style cooking in a small-scale, intimate space.