Melbourne fine diner Dinner by Heston is the latest high-profile restaurant to be accused of underpaying its staff. The restaurant is fronted by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal and owned by Tipsy Cake Pty Ltd, which also owns renowned UK restaurant The Fat Duck.
Rosters show chefs at Dinner by Heston regularly work 25 hours of unpaid overtime each week, according to an investigation by the Sydney Morning Herald. The report goes on to claim the unpaid overtime would mean skilled mid-level chefs could be earning as little as $15 to $17 per hour. The rosters allegedly show chefs are regularly rostered to work up to 65 hours a week but only paid for 40. It’s also alleged many of the staff are working in Australia on temporary visas.
“Dinner is committed to employees, and its obligations as a fair and responsible employer are taken very seriously,” a Dinner by Heston spokesperson said in a statement. “We do not believe there are any issues to address but any revealed by a thorough review that we are undertaking will be dealt with immediately.”
Blumenthal is one of the world’s most famous chefs, known to many around Australia for his appearances as a guest judge on MasterChef as well as the TV show Heston’s Feasts. As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Blumenthal is no longer a shareholder in Dinner by Heston but remains “integral” to the business, a spokesperson told the paper.
The Sydney Morning Herald report also details legal tax havens used by Tipsy Cake Pty Ltd, including a Caribbean island called Nevis where foreign companies pay zero tax on offshore earnings.
“The corporate structure of the Melbourne restaurant is a matter of public record. The group operates internationally within an existing trading structure, in a way that allows the business to work efficiently in its chosen markets. In the case of Melbourne, the operating company is fully registered in Australia,” says the company’s spokesperson.
In October, Rockpool Dining Group – the hospitality company led by acclaimed chef Neil Perry – back payed staff $1.6 million following a payroll review stemming from a Fairfax Media investigation. And last year George Calombaris’s Made Establishment back payed 160 staff members a total of $2.6 million.
In May, the Daniel Andrews-led state government committed to criminalising wage theft following its re-election earlier this month.