Disgraced restaurateur and wage thief George Calombaris has publicly apologised for withholding $7.8 million from his employees, telling 7.30 host Leigh Sales a simple lack of experience led to him shortchanging staff over a period of years.

ABC reports the interview, which will go to air tonight, shows the former MasterChef judge expressing contrition over the scandal – while also explaining his perspective on the circumstances which led to his seven-figure swindle.

“I take full responsibility for this. I’m sorry,” Calombaris said.

The chef claims the underpayment was not malicious or deliberate. Instead, he claims it was the consequence of inexperience on behalf of him and his young business partners, who failed to install payroll practices to adequately remunerate employees.

“You get together with three other partners at that point, and you open the first one, then the second one opens, the third one, the creativity is flying, the ideas are flying, the dreaming is there,” Calombaris said.

“But the sophistication in the back end wasn’t there.”

While Calombaris says he’s paid back his past and present employees, and has ponied up a $200,000 fine to the Fair Work Ombudsman, it is yet to be seen if tonight’s program features any workers on the other end of the stick.

The programme will come two days after MasterChef 2010 winner Adam Liaw said wage thieves in the hospitality industry should face criminal repercussions. 

You can watch a preview of 7.30 here. 

Source: ABC
Image: ABC