10/04/2020 2:49 PM AEST | Updated 26/05/2020 11:21 AM AEST

MasterChef Australia Star Says Restaurants Were Struggling Before Coronavirus

'It all started with George Calombaris. What happened to him was so unfair and unforgiving, it almost turned me against the industry itself.'

See the latest stories on the coronavirus outbreak.  

Australia’s food and hospitality sector has suffered in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with the government restricting restaurants to only takeaway and delivery services and asking people to maintain social distancing.

’MasterChef’s Larrisa Takchi believes the industry already showed signs of major struggles back in early February before Covid-19 was as big a health crisis as it now is in Australia.

Speaking to HuffPost Australia, the 2019 series winner said the closure of 12 restaurants under former ‘MasterChef’ judge George Calombaris’ group, MAdE Establishment Group, was the first signal of how “crippled” the industry would become. 

In February Calombaris, who was a judge on ‘MasterChef’ from 2009 to 2019, confirmed his company, MAdE Establishment was going into voluntary administration.

Channel 10
MasterChef Australia 2019 winner Larissa Takchi with judge George Calombaris.

“This industry is tough as it is, the year 2020 has yet confirmed this. I think it all started with George Calombaris. What happened to him was so unfair and unforgiving, it almost turned me against the industry itself,” she said.

“And now we’re faced with the world’s worst epidemic. A lot of restaurants and cafes have now closed because they simply can’t afford to open, this situation has literally crippled our industry.”

In the wake of Covid-19, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last month that pubs, registered and licensed clubs, gyms and indoor sporting venues would shut down, while restaurants and cafes will be limited to takeaway and delivery orders only.

Larissa, whose family’s Western Sydney cafe has now adapted to delivery and takeaway services, said she suspects the pandemic could discourage aspiring chefs.

“For those bright eyed, bushy tailed chefs entering this industry, [they] must be feeling deflated and unsure of the future. I sure as hell do!” she said.

“However I’m pushing for something great here. If Masterchef taught me anything, it’s not to ever give up on your dreams.” 

Adam Liaw: No Work For ‘Almost Six Months’

’MasterChef Australia’s 2010 winer Adam Liaw, who regularly does cooking demonstrations, speaking appearances and collaborations with food brands and travel companies, admitted almost all of the next six months of work opportunities have dried up. 

“I think certainly my work kind of straddles the travel, food and arts industry – so I would say the three worst affected industries from all of this,” Adam told HuffPost Australia in March. 

“Certainly there’s a lot of people in all of those industries that are doing it very tough at the moment. So I’ve obviously got a bit more time on my hands then, as we all do, to sit at home.” 

Having said that, the father-of-three has a six-month-old baby that will keep him somewhat busy, while he promised there’s still a few projects “that I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into”. 

MasterChef: Back To Win’s Reynold Poernomo Reopens Dessert Bars 

The 26-year-old’s two Koi Dessert Bars in Sydney’s Chippendale and Ryde reopened for takeaway and delivery ahead of the Easter long weekend.

With “no specific dates” surrounding the government’s social distancing rules, Reynold said the waiting game wasn’t practical for him and his brothers, whom he opened the restaurants with. 

Channel 10
MasterChef Australia's Reynold Poernomo

“We weren’t sure, the government didn’t really say anything about how long this lockdown would be,” he told HuffPost Australia.

“We thought about it like, ‘Yeah we can’t just sit around and do nothing. We need to do something’.

“It’s getting really boring and everyone in isolation was very bored,” he explained. “There’s a lot of home cooking happening and it’s time for us to come get back into work and support our staff as well, and of course support ourselves.” 

Reynold became a household name on Australian TV and was dubbed the ‘Dessert King’ after appearing in season seven of ‘MasterChef Australia’ in 2015. 

He’s now one of 24 former contestants returning to the show for its 12th season, ‘Masterchef Australia: Back To Win’, which premieres on Easter Monday.