Dinner by Heston goes bust, with debts topping $10m_1

The high-end Dinner by Heston Blumenthal will be wound up after a judge found the award-winning Melbourne restaurant bearing the famed British chef's name had debts of at least $10 million, including $4.4 million owed to employees.

Federal Court Judge David Yates accepted an administrator's evidence the foreign-registered eatery was insolvent and could not service its debts given it was about to be evicted from its Crown Melbourne premises.

Those debts were estimated at $10.8 million, including employee debts of more than $4.4 million, a debt of $1.885 million to the restaurant's principals and $1.1 million to landlord Crown Melbourne.

The administrator said the debts might be understated, Justice Yates said on Wednesday. The restaurant went into voluntary administration in December 2019.

It has been a bad week for the celebrity chef, who was also reportedly dumped from TV's MasterChef. Blumenthal has been a regular throughout many of the Network Ten show's 11 series.

“Heston has been a long-time member of the MasterChef Australia family, but he will not be appearing in the upcoming season,” a network spokesman told News Corp on Tuesday.

Earlier in February, former Dinner by Heston employees spoke out about a culture of fear at the restaurant, which they said led them to sometimes work more than 80 hours a week.

One woman who worked there for more than two years claimed she was underpaid $25,000.

“Whenever we would bring up the subject to the head chef, she would always say: ‘Yeah, but the wage is so high it all equals out’,” she said.

“They talked it up as a privilege [to work there] and that’s why we would accept the circumstances. There’s a huge culture of fear.

On its website, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal promotes itself as "one of the world's most exciting restaurants" and an "ultra-modern dining experience". It was awarded two hats in the 2019 Good Food Guide.

The demise of the high-end Melbourne restaurant follows this week's collapse of another celebrity chef's empire. George Calombaris, also a former MasterChef judge, put his MaDE Establishment Group into voluntary administration on Monday.

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Only four of Calombaris's outlets will continue to trade – with the immediate closure of 12 others putting at risk nearly 500 jobs.

The decision came after revelations in 2019 that MAde Establishment staff had been underpaid millions for work between 2011 and 2017.

They have since been back paid $7.8 million in wages and superannuation. Calombaris was also ordered by the Fair Work Ombudsman to make a $200,000 "contrition payment".

-with AAP