Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal will not appear on the next series of MasterChef Australia amid accusations of staff wage underpayment and the closure of Melbourne’s Dinner by Heston this week.
Australian television company Network 10 has confirmed that Blumenthal will not appear on the next series of the cooking competition. He has been a regular judge on the series, which is now into its 12th series.
“Heston has been a long-time member of the MasterChef Australia family, but he will not be appearing in the upcoming season,” a spokesperson from the network told the Herald Sun.
However, Network 10 did not comment on the reasons behind the decision.
It follows news, reported by Broadsheet, that Melbourne-based Dinner by Heston would conduct its final shift on 14 February. The restaurant went into voluntary liquidation in December 2019.
The restaurant, which carries Blumenthal’s name but is owned by Tipsy Cake, has been accused of underpaying staff at least AU$4.5 million since it opened in 2015.
The restaurant, which operates out of a site at the Crown Casino, owes workers $4.044m in historic underpayments together with a further $435,000 in accrued entitlements following the closure of the business.
Tipsy Cake has been the subject of an investigation by Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman since December 2018.
It is believed that the parent company of Tipsy Cake is the same company which owns the Fat Duck Group – Blumenthal’s UK restaurant empire. However, the company is based on the Caribbean island and tax haven of Nevis, and its ownership details are hidden.
Blumenthal has had no ownership or shareholding in any restaurant since 2006.
Another former MasterChef Australia judge, George Calombaris, has also seen his restaurant empire entire administration.
Calombaris’ company, Made, was accused of underpaying staff a total of AU$7.8 million back in July 2019. The group comprises 22 companies, including 12 restaurants and food venues in Melbourne.