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'I Take Full Responsibility For This': George Calombaris Breaks Down Apologising For Underpaying Staff

In his first public interview after he, Matt Preston and Gary Mehigan announced they were leaving 'MasterChef', George Calombaris took 'full responsibility' for the underpayment of his employees.

Speaking to Leigh Sales on ABC's '7.30', which will air tonight, Calombaris said he was 'gutted' when he and his business partners realised they had underpaid staff at several of his restaurants $7.8 million.

Calling the underpayment an 'oversight', the former 'MasterChef' judge said "I want to apologise to all my team, both past and present, for the effect I've had on them, we've had on them. I apologise to them."

"I'm not here to blame anyone," he added, "I take full responsibility for this. I'm sorry."

In the last week, it was announced Calombaris was leaving the show that he, Preston and Mehigan were the faces of for over a decade after contractual negotiations broke down. During that same week he was also ordered by The Fair Work Ombudsman to pay a $200,000 'contrition payment', make a series of public statements promoting compliance with the Fair Work Act as well as reimbursing his former employees.

"It takes a long time to build a reputation, in your case 25 years of work, and you can lose it in a week," Sales told the celebrity chef.

READ MORE: George Calombaris Slapped With Massive Fine Amid Underpayment Scandal

READ MORE: 'MasterChef' Exodus: George Calombaris, Matt Preston And Gary Mehigan Speak Out

"The thing about 13 years ago," Calombaris explained, "you're a young chef, 26 years of age, you want to open your first restaurant, you get together with three other partners at that point, and you open the first one, then the second one opens, the third one, the creativity is flying, the ideas are flying, the dreaming is there.

"But the sophistication in the back end wasn't there, there was no CEO, there was no people culture manager, there was no elite finance team like we've got now that can make sure that mistake that we made will never happen again."

Insisting that he had no plans to close his restaurants, Calombaris continued to take responsibility for the major error, as well as standing up for his team of more than 600 workers.

"It's my job as their leader to keep pushing forward and keep speaking this message, not shying away from the mistake we made, but also acknowledging that we fixed it."

Featured image: ABC.