Helenic Republic, Jimmy Grants is empty

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They are the trendy restaurants in Melbourne where diners usually find it hard to find a table, but this week several restaurants owned by the celebrated embattled chef George Calombaris are strangely silent.

The photographs taken in different companies owned by Made Establishment show only a handful of people inside, while the controversy that afflicts Calombaris shows no signs of loosening.

Once he was a lover of the hospitality scene and one of the biggest names in television, thanks to his role as judge on Juggernaut MasterChef Australia.

But Calombaris now finds himself staring at an intense uncertainty, losing sponsorship agreements, exiting his plum television concert and fighting to rehabilitate his toxic public persona.

A visit to several restaurants owned by Calombaris has revealed how many problems the chef seems to have and the famous business man. At lunchtime, Jimmy Grants in St Kilda in Melbourne was practically deserted, with only a few players inside.

On the other side of the city, in Jimmy Grants' position in Richmond, it was a similar story with a solo dinner sitting at a bar in an otherwise deserted restaurant.

In Brighton, in the Helenic Republic, the crown jewel of the Calombaris restaurant, the lunchtime ride was nothing but, with more empty tables than occupied.

RELATED: The MasterChef trio make their new "risky" move after leaving the show, with millions of dollars online

The photographer also visited Gazi, the chef's restaurant in the Melbourne CBD, and found it equally silent.

Gazi was the site of a union protest last Friday, in which the crime scene tape with the words "wage theft" was hung at his entrance at lunch time.

This week, Network 10 made the extraordinary decision to abandon contract negotiations with Calombaris and the other judges of MasterChef Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston, who were negotiating as a bloc.

Reportedly, the trio demanded a 40% increase on their estimated salaries of $ 1 million per season to cope with the television reality franchise.

RELATED: "Where's my money, George?" The unpaid staff increases the heat on Calombaris

But the experts say that the seething fury of Calombaris' wage scandal supported the network in a corner, and was given the opportunity to free him and silence the increasing calls from the unions and of the former staff to be fired.

Last week a fair labor survey concluded that the Calombaris restaurant empire, Made Establishment, paid over 500 employees for $ 7.8 million in six years.

The colossal figure dwarfed its initial estimate of $ 2.6 million, which it self-declared at the beginning of 2017 as a result of complaints from staff. He was blamed for a payroll error.

Calombaris was ordered to make a "contrition payment" of only $ 200,000, which angered Hospo Voice, the hospitality staff union, and provoked a campaign by Australian unions.

That campaign led Tourism WA to download the celebrity chef as the face of its current food and wine campaign after the intervention of the Western Australia government.

The scandal also spread to federal politics, with Attorney General Christian Porter describing the penalty of Fair Work as inadequate and promising a revision.

"I am open to claims that there should be more stringent sanctions there, including potentially criminal sanctions reserved for repetitive violations," said Porter.

Labor relations spokesman Tony Burke said commercial activities are only cleaned after being captured.

"If someone deliberately and calculatedly takes the money that belongs to the workers and keeps it to himself, I can't see how it is different from a worker who takes money from the cashier," Burke said.

In the wake of the Fair Work decision and the anger it caused, Calombaris apologized to the staff and promised to remedy it.

"We apologize to all our team members who are interested, past and present – because our people make our restaurants great and it is our priority to ensure that all our employees feel respected, rewarded and supported in their roles," he said. He said.

"We are committed to acting as a force for change in the industry and guiding the example when it comes to building and promoting supportive, healthy and compliant hospitality workplaces."

Leigh Small, managing director of Made Establishment, said that the business empire has established a series of new practices to ensure that insufficient payments no longer occur.

"All current members of the Made team have been correctly classified and all rights verified due to current and past employees have been calculated and paid, with a handful of requests now being finalized," said Small.

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