George Calombaris’ restaurant empire collapse is one of many failed attempts by celebrities trying to crack the Australian market. See who else has gone bust.
George Calombaris’ restaurant empire collapse is one of many failed attempts by celebrities trying to crack the Australian market. See who else has gone bust.

The curse of the celebrity chef restaurant

Former MasterChef judge George Calombaris' restaurant collapse is the latest in a series of commercial celebrity ventures gone in Australia.

The celebrity chef confirmed rumours his restaurant empire, MAdE Establishment Group, was going into voluntary administration today.

George Calombaris speaking out about his restaurant collapse. Picture: ABC/7.30
George Calombaris speaking out about his restaurant collapse. Picture: ABC/7.30

The news comes just seven months on from a scandal, where Calombaris's company underpaid more than 500 employees and had to back pay those affected - in wages and superannuation - after an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

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The collapse of the MAdE Establishment Group, which oversees 22 companies, follows in the footsteps of celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver, Heston Blumenthal and Sydney-based My Kitchen Rules judge Manu Fidel, whose restaurant ventures have tantalised the tastebuds of customers and then come tumbling down in Australia.

Sydney-based My Kitchen Rules judge Manu Fidel.
Sydney-based My Kitchen Rules judge Manu Fidel.

British Hell's Kitchen chef Gordon Ramsay, who is known for his hot temper at staff on television, is even included in this list after his restaurant, Maze, at Crown in Melbourne was liquidated in 2011.

CELEBRITY CHEF FAILED RESTAURANT VENTURES

JAMIE OLIVER

Jamie Oliver's restaurant chain, Jamie's Italian, went into voluntary administration in 2018.

The move was less than 12 months after the British celebrity chef visited Australia to relaunch six restaurants bearing his name - buying them from hospitality company Keystone group, which went into administration.

Jamie Oliver is another celebrity chef who’s failed as a restaurateur in the Australian food industry.
Jamie Oliver is another celebrity chef who’s failed as a restaurateur in the Australian food industry.

Jamie's Italian's ill-fate closed the Canberra outlet immediately and the remaining five sites - in Sydney CBQ, Parramatta, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide - were salvaged by a last-minute sale to Brisbane-based Hallmark Group.

The Parramatta outlet has since closed.

A shot inside the Brisbane-based Jamie’s Italian.
A shot inside the Brisbane-based Jamie’s Italian.

The voluntary administration was a reflection of the Oliver businesses in the UK struggling with £71.5 million worth of debt repayments.

In May 2019, the Oliver's British restaurant chain - including Jamie's Italian chain, Barbecoa, Jamie Oliver's Diner and Fifteen - filed for bankruptcy protection in the UK.

The father of five admitted he "honestly (didn't) know" why his company was failing but claimed a "perfect storm" of "rents, rates, the high street declining, food costs, Brexit, (and) increase in the minimum wage" was to blame.

The move closed all but three of the group's 25 eateries across the UK and followed the closure of 12 of its 37 sites in Britain.

Oliver has been a household name since 1999 when his first cooking show, The Naked Chef, hit screens.

The 24 episodes were wildly successful, and "pukka", which was his slang for delicious, became a household word.

HESTON BLUMENTHAL

Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal's restaurant Tipsy Cake - the company which owned Dinner By Heston in Melbourne - appointed provisional liquidators in December.

The move was the result of failing to meet a Fair Word Ombudsman deadline to back pay staff $4.5 million worth in wages and entitlements.

World-renowned celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal. Picture: Supplied
World-renowned celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal. Picture: Supplied

Now, Tipsy Cake is blaming Crown for its collapse, saying it was a "partner" in the business and "who were responsible for advising on the staff remuneration blueprint for the restaurant."

Crown rejected the claim, saying "Tipsy Cake at all times was responsible for paying its staff and determined hours and shifts worked."

While the restaurant carries the celebrity chef's name, Blumenthal is not a part-owner.

Network 10 has confirmed Heston Blumenthal will not be returning to judge MasterChef this year.
Network 10 has confirmed Heston Blumenthal will not be returning to judge MasterChef this year.

The sour war between businesses follows reports Blumenthal will not be returning to MasterChef as a judge this year, Network 10 has confirmed.

The show will now be fronted by Jock Zonfrillo, Melissa Leong and Andy Allen.

Network 10 did not give reasons for Blumenthal not appearing.

MANU FEILDEL

Manu Feildel's Melbourne-based restaurant, Le Grand Cirque - opened with the MAdE Establishment Group - was closed in 2014 shortly following the closure of L'Etoile in Paddington, Sydney, due to a lack of customers.

Chef Manu Fidel with his children at the Zirk Red Carpet Big Top Spectacular, Entertainment Quarter, in 2019. Picture: Monique Harmer
Chef Manu Fidel with his children at the Zirk Red Carpet Big Top Spectacular, Entertainment Quarter, in 2019. Picture: Monique Harmer

Other restaurants the My Kitchen Rules judge closed in Sydney included Duck In Duck Out at World Square in 2018, just one year after opening, and Aperitif at Kings Cross in 2011 - a restaurant he opened with Spanish-born Australian chef Miguel Maestre.

In November 2019, it was reported Fieldel quit Australia's restaurant business, labelling the food industry Down Under as "crap".

In an interview with News Corp in 2019, he said: "The restaurant world has been very difficult as we all know the last few years and I kind of gave it another go last year and it didn't work out.

"I looked at my life and saw I have been given another opportunity, a new career (in TV) I suppose, and I am going to give that a go because that is what works for me at the minute.

"I have been offered a few gigs so the stars are aligning. It is the right time of my life."

GORDON RAMSAY

The star of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, Gordon Ramsay, closed Maze and Maze Grill in 2011.

The restaurants, located at the Crown Metrolpol Hotel in Melbourne, were reportedly put into liquidation by Gordan Ramsay Holdings (GRH) after management changes.

MasterChef’s Gordon Ramsay has had a number of restaurants close over the years, including two in the heart of Melbourne. Picture: Channel 10
MasterChef’s Gordon Ramsay has had a number of restaurants close over the years, including two in the heart of Melbourne. Picture: Channel 10

British celebrity chef and restaurateur has had a number of restaurants worldwide close over the years including Amaryllis, Aubergine and The Boxwood Cafe in the UK; The Fat Cow in the US; Gordon Ramsay at Powerscourt in Ireland in 2013; Gordon Ramsay at The London in the US in 2015, and Maze at Czech Republic in 2009.

 

ADRIANO ZUMBO

 

Celebrity pastry chef Adriano Zumbo's boutique patisserie empire was placed into administration in 2018 as it struggled to repay millions of dollars in debt.

Voluntary administrators were appointed on July 22, 2018, to manage three of Mr Zumbo's businesses across Sydney and Melbourne - 611 Pty Ltd, Mel611 Pty Ltd and I'm So Fancy Pty Ltd - which trade together as The Zumbo Group.

He owed millions of dollars to the ANZ Bank, tax office, employees and suppliers.

The first two companies ran his retail stores and production kitchens in Sydney and Melbourne and a pop-up store.

Celebrity pastry chef Adriano Zumbo said in an interview with News Corp: “You unintentionally let a lot of good people down.”
Celebrity pastry chef Adriano Zumbo said in an interview with News Corp: “You unintentionally let a lot of good people down.”

The other ran a high tea cafe in Melbourne's South Yarra.

In an interview with News Corp, Zumbo detailed how his dream "fell apart" after his three businesses went into voluntary administration and liquidation.

His comments came as season two of Seven's show Zumbo's Just Desserts aired across Australia in November 2019.

"The reality is everything you pray to go your way, doesn't always happen. And you unintentionally let a lot of good people down," he said.

"Which drains you mentally and emotionally as you beat yourself up inside the mind."

World-renowned celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal.
World-renowned celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal.
The set-up inside the Brisbane-based Jamie’s Italian.
The set-up inside the Brisbane-based Jamie’s Italian.


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