With the opening lines of his interview being, “it’s been a tough time in this life,” it’s clear that the past few months have put a strain on George Calombaris’ mental health, and subsequently, his career.

Back in July, the celebrity chef was fined for underpaying more than 500 of his staff to the tune of eight-million dollar. The Fair Work Ombudsman consequently fined the Melbourne chef more than $200,000, and required him to pay for audits at all of his restaurant sites.

Calombaris was consequently dumped as the face of WA Tourism’s food and wine campaign, and stood down from being a celebrity judge on Channel 10’s MasterChef.

“Despite months of negotiation, 10 has not been able to reach a commercial agreement that was satisfactory to Matt, Gary and George,” Network 10 chief executive officer Paul Anderson said in a statement at the time.

In an exclusive interview with Jonesy & Amanda, the 40-year-old reflected on his time on MasterChef as well as the utmost respect he has for his restaurant “team”.

“It was an extraordinary 11 years with MasterChef and obviously the three of us parted ways with Channel 10,” he explained.

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He added that there were “lots of lessons learnt” but considers his employees – or “team” as George prefers to refer to them – the “most important thing”.

“There’s 640 team members in my group so I’ll leave you guys and head back to Melbourne and I’ll be in the kitchen at Hellenic Republic Brighton for lunch and dinner.”

The television chef went on to admit that he simply wanted to be the “best chef” he could possibly be, and with that, comes challenges.

“I’m not the type to wither away and hide,” he said, reflecting on his troubles over the past few months.

As a result, he coped by meditating, and the support of his friends, family and staff.

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However, he reiterates that his team discovered the underpayment issues, and subsequently resulting in them self-reporting.

“We found problems, and we self reported, and we put our hand up for mistakes that we made.

“At the end of the day, the most important thing is the people that work for me. They’re everything.

“What we did, I’m very proud of… we found the problem, we fixed the problem, nobody found us. I’m proud that we could do that and I’m proud that we’re still open and firing today!”

Watch George Calombaris’ full candid interview above. 

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WSFM 101.7 Sydney