Heston Blumenthal’s Melbourne restaurant that Heston Blumenthal does not own, Dinner by Heston, owes its staff at least $4.5 million Australian dollars — £2.3 million — in unpaid wages after systematically underpaying its workers since opening in 2015, according to a creditors’ report seen by the Sydney Morning Herald.
Tipsy Cake Pty Ltd, which owns Dinner by Heston and also licenses its branding, is under external administration from BRI Ferrier, which estimates the company’s debt at £4.125 million, caused by:
The underpayment of employee entitlements over a period of four years from commencement of business until circa June 2019 when the employment arrangements were changed to comply with employment legislation.
Wage theft is not a crime under under Australian law, and employees underpaid by restaurants are usually forced to resort to civil action to claim any backpay. The country’s Fair Work Ombudsman launched an inquiry into Tipsy Cake’s wage practices after a Sydney Morning Herald investigation into unpaid overtime — the company appointed liquidators just before Christmas, just after missing a deadline to pay the wages owed.
The BRI Ferrier report also shows that Crown Casino, the restaurant’s nominal landlord, charged only $1 — £0.52p — per year in rent, while spending $1 million per year licensing the Dinner by Heston intellectual property, including its name and recipes, which went to Bacon and Egg Ice Cream Limited, based on the Nevis tax haven. Blumenthal has long disavowed restaurant ownership, despite Dinner by Heston London — and its two Michelin stars — and the Melbourne restaurant being inextricably linked to his brand of cooking, name, and profile. The line is always the same: “he has had no ownership of any restaurant business anywhere in the world since 2006.” A Crown statement makes clear that the restaurant will soon close:
“Tipsy Cake has asked the court to appoint a liquidator, on the basis that it is insolvent. In these circumstances, Crown has taken steps to bring the tenancy to an end. As the winding-up application is now before the court, Crown will not be making any further comment concerning the liquidator’s appointment.”
The restaurant operation which bears his name is having as bad a time as Blumenthal himself: Ashley Palmer-Watts, the architect of Dinner by Heston’s London success, left the group late last year; Blumenthal has recently delivered sexist commentary on women’s inability to cope in kitchens and a hagiographic Esquire U.K. profile that did not address that commentary or the ongoing situation in Melbourne. Tipsy Cake Pty Ltd has not made a statement.