Individual chefs at Dinner by Heston — the high-end Melbourne restaurant of celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal — may have been underpaid up to $30,000 each per year.
The allegations have come to light after an investigation by Fairfax Media discovered Blumenthal’s businesses were run through a number of offshore tax havens in the Caribbean and Europe.
According the investigation, Dinner by Heston could be underpaying its permanent chefs up to $1 million a year. The estimate is based on the size of its workforce and analysis of leaked rosters by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. The Fair Work Ombudsman is now looking into the allegations after it received information about two of the restaurant’s chefs who have worked excessive overtime resulting in significant underpayment.
A Hospo Voice lawyer provided estimates that suggested the two chefs were owed $20,000-$25,000 and $30,000 respectively, after working at least 20 hours a week unpaid overtime.
Chefs from the venue told Fairfax they work up to 40 unpaid hours during some weeks.
”The Fair Work Ombudsman is conducting enquiries into this matter and it is not appropriate to comment further,” a spokeswoman said.
A spokesperson for Dinner by Heston said they do not believe there are any issues to address, however, “any revealed by a thorough review, which is being undertaken by BDO Australia, will be dealt with immediately”.
They added the company will also work closely with any investigation conducted by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The scandal is the latest to hit the hospitality world. After initially denying accusations of underpayments, Rockpool Dining Group conducted a review and committed to back paying workers $1.6 million. The same month, Bistro Guillaume, owned and operated by high-profile French chef Guillaume Brahimi, faced accusations of underpayment.
In 2017, George Calombaris’ Made Establishment was at the centre of a wages scandal, admitting to inadvertently underpaying 162 of its staff members a total of $2.6 million.