Calombaris opens up on ‘turbulent’ years
He's copped three serves of calamity over the past couple of years and even for somebody who's lived a life in the kitchen, things were getting too hot for celebrity chef George Calombaris.
"There is no question about it, it was a turbulent time, let's not kid ourselves, I flew very close to the sun," the MasterChef host and restaurateur said.
"I might be really little but I have a heart of a lion and I don't want to be a flock of sheep. I want to do things my way and sometimes you are going to make mistakes."
First there were reports his company had reimbursed 162 staff some $2.6 million they were owed after they'd been underpaid, then there was an altercation with a rival fan at the 2017 A-League grand final which resulted in a (later dismissed) common assault charge.
"It was a low and a hard experience, but it was a credit to my friends and family around me who have hung out through not only the good and but the tough times," he said.
And this year Calombaris has been caught up in a bitter dispute with his next-door neighbours in the ritzy Melbourne suburb of Toorak over a newly-installed building housing a home-gym in his backyard. That's still going on.
And even his flagship MasterChef show seemed a bit undercooked this year, with its season debut dropping under a million viewers for the first time.
But Calombaris is using the challenges he's faced as ingredients to cook up a brighter future.
"I have had plenty of time to sit and reflect and I've had time to get sense of what I was doing. All I can do is go forward," he said.
There are a lot of people to consider after all - his hundreds of staff, millions of MasterChef fans and, of course, his family.
"I want to be a role model to my kids and other kids out there. Life will throw you curve balls, you have just got to be able to learn from them and be big enough to say that you made a mistake," he said.
"I have 642 staff, it is my duty to care and give them the tools to get through the tough times.
"My family and my team, I have a duty to look after them. I am also on a show on 150 countries around the world … I know I have a responsibility and that responsibility is important."
He now has another one to add, joining the new delicious. Travel as editor-at-large.
Editor-in-chief Kerrie McCallum welcomed Calombaris at a VIP soiree at Icebergs last night.
Calombaris said he was excited to be part of the new endeavour, which also features regular contributions from top food industry heavy weights including Matt Preston, Hayden Quinn and Magdalena Roze.