Ten’s unsurprising gutful of George
GEORGE Calombaris has a lot of experience when it comes to underpaying people, which is why he wasn't just going to sit back and let his bosses at Network Ten use his own tricks on him.
The gall! George isn't an idiot. He's the king of pretending like he doesn't know how to use a calculator. How dare Ten try and beat him at his own game of underpayment.
So when negotiations reportedly broke down yesterday and his demands for a 40 per cent raise on his million-dollar-a-year contract weren't met, he and his fellow judges walked.
Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston probably tried to hold their bosses hostage by pulling the old "if he goes, we go!" trick. They never anticipated that Ten's response would be along the lines of, "lol, see ya".
They thought they'd be like the cast of Friends back in the '90s when they all banded together and threatened to quit if they each didn't get $1 million an episode. The flaw in the plan is George, Matt and Gary are not the cast of Friends. They're three dads who love a free feed. And at best, they're all a Ross.
Preston isn't even a chef and as for Gary Mehigan, management will just be happy to replace him with someone whose surname we can all agree on one pronunciation for.
But it's really George who's at the centre of this Michelin-starred crap sandwich.
He's a man with his eye on the bottom line. The Fair Work investigation that kickstarted his downfall found the amount he underpaid more than 500 staff totalled more than $7.8 million. In 2012, he complained about having to pay waiters weekend penalty rates because "it's not like they've had to go to uni for 15 years". I've got no proof of this but he probably also invented that infuriating feature on restaurant Eftpos machines that publicly shames you into typing in a tip.
Of course, the culinary trio are trying to downplay the unfortunate succession of events that has engulfed them all over the past week. Gary came out overnight and said the group's decision to walk off the job wasn't about the money and then George said the only reason they left was because he couldn't make the filming dates "align". Align with what? You found a way to make things "align" the past 11 years. Make things "align" again next year.
George obviously thought this excuse about clashing dates would be a better PR spin. It's not. All it tells us is George is that difficult mate in the group chat who - when you're all trying to decide whether to have dinner on a Friday or Saturday night - huffs in with a, "That doesn't work for me, what about dinner at 8am on Tuesday the 33rd of April?"
These people are the worst. No wonder Channel Ten had a gutful. George has become a trouble maker and he has been saving all his best gear for off-screen.
There's the time he picked a fight with that random kid at the footy. And who can forget his ongoing feud with that grumpy old lady who lives next door? You know, the one who went on A Current Affair and said his house reno looked like a public toilet. She seemed delightful but George didn't see the funny side.
Anyway, these incidents compacted with his inability to use Microsoft Excel properly have slowly revealed over the past two years that George is a total hot head but he hasn't been serving up this drama on MasterChef. A TV network doesn't care if you're controversial as long as you're bringing the goods on camera.
"Despite months of negotiation, 10 has not been able to reach a commercial agreement that was satisfactory to Matt, Gary and George," Ten CEO Paul Anderson said in yesterday's statement announcing the trio's departure.
The announcement conveniently came just hours before the series 11 finale. Slick move on Ten's part - finally, an interesting reason to tune in. Still, they should've let things go completely feral by making the finale live-to-air so we all got to watch George and the gang suffer through one final episode. That sounds insensitive but those rat bags over at Nine would've absolutely done it. They stopped short of getting Georgie Gardner to drag Karl through the streets while we all chanted and hurled cans. It's the razzle dazzle of showbiz.
Anyway, now everyone wants to know who will replace George, Matt and Gary. We all love Poh and Kylie Kwong so they're definitely in. But the third? Some people reckon Maggie Beer should make the cut but she's honestly high risk and probably just days away from being investigated by Fair Work herself for that ridiculously overpriced burnt fig ice-cream she's spruiking.
And as for George, what will happen to him? He's now down a lucrative gig. We'll never know what happened behind closed doors, but there is a small part of us that wishes, when George demanded execs cough up an extra $400,000 on his contract, that someone in that boardroom piped up and said: "It's not like you went to uni for 15 years".