George Calombaris closes Melbourne restaurant Hellenic Republic

Disgraced chef George Calombaris has closed his flagship restaurant just months after tearfully begging the public not to abandon the embattled business.

The former Masterchef judge announced his decision to close his Melbourne restaurant Hellenic Republic after being caught underpaying staff millions.

The 41-year-old chef, who is worth an estimated $5 million, was forced to pay back $7.8 million to more than 500 workers. 

Former Masterchef judge George Calombaris had failed to properly pay hundreds of staff

The restaurateur said the decision to close Hellenic Republic was ‘bittersweet’. 

‘On December 31, 2019 we are farewelling Hellenic Republic Brunswick and transforming our beloved space into “Crofter” with our new partner,’ he wrote on Instagram.

‘Matt and I have been peers and friends for almost 20 years. He is the unofficial Mayor of the North as far as I’m concerned and the venue could not be in better hands. 

The celebrity chef with his wife Natalie Tricarico, who he married in September last year

‘Not just because of his food, which is the kind of food people want to eat, but because he is an absolute riot of a human – fun, energetic, brave but above all a beautiful person. Love him and can’t wait.’ 

Masterchef’s George Calombaris

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Calombaris gave a tearful interview with the ABC after the scandal broke, pleading with customers to stand by his businesses. 

‘I love the people that have worked for me and I don’t want them to suffer right now,’ he said. 

‘Great restaurants are voted by bums on seats and obviously… don’t punish my people.

‘Just know that when you come into one of our restaurants, know when you pay the bill, that those, my people, are getting paid and paid correctly.’

George Calombaris giving an emotional interview to ABC in July where he apologised to staff

Daily Mail Australia reported earlier this year how the chef’s restaurants were suffering with some diners refusing to go there after the wage scandal.

The celebrity chef’s hospitality group MAdE was forced to backpay all current and former employees who had been dudded on wages.

The Fair Work Ombudsman also hit the company with a $200,000 fine. 

Closed: The Melbourne eatery served a range of traditional Greek food, including $89 lamb

Calombaris’ restaurants were a go-to place among MasterChef fans.

But when Daily Mail Australia visited his eateries in July, shortly after his tearful interview, they were unusually quiet. 

Calombaris also runs Gazi and Jimmy Grants in Richmond and home_0 St Kilda.  

 The chef tied the knot with his girlfriend-of-11-years Miss Tricarico in September last year. 

The chef is also understood to be selling his Melbourne home after the bumper payout to staff

The new restaurant’s chef Matt Wilkinson said he wants to focus on a vegetable-first menu without ‘huge portions of meat’.

‘If you come to my house you’re not going to eat huge portions of meat,’ he told Broadsheet.

‘My favourite places to go out are places where you can have a few snacks, a bit of bread, some vegetable options and then some small sides.’

‘The world is changing, I’m not going to sell you a big fuck-off steak, you can’t order the chicken Kiev anymore. 

‘Those place will always be there and I love [them]. But the way I cook at home is lots of salads and a small amount of meat.’

The Greek restaurant will be transformed into a vegetarian-friendly modern eatery

In July, another employee slammed the celebrity chef and claimed to be owed money on top of the $7.8million his restaurant empire was forced to pay back.

The former waitress, who worked at Hellenic Republic, told The Project she was still owed ‘anywhere between three and four thousand dollars’.

Orlaith Belfrage claimed she was wrongly classified as a casual worker, and therefore wasn’t paid overtime wages as a full time worker.

‘For my overtime it was just explained that that was just how it is, and I can just suck it up and work the job, or leave,’ she said.