'I didn't flee': Restaurateur Robert Marchetti. Photo: Tamara Dean
Celebrity restaurateur Robert Marchetti has broken his silence and denied he fled to Bali after the collapse of his Crown Casino restaurant Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons last month.
''I'm not Christopher Skase, I haven't fled the country … all this speculation I am drowning and hiding is absolute bullshit,'' Marchetti said from Bali, where he consults for the Double-Six hotel in Seminyak.
Fairfax Media recently revealed that Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons had been placed in liquidation with more than 100 creditors owed $1.6 million. Marchetti had also amassed substantial debts at his former Sydney eateries North Bondi Italian Food and Neild Avenue in Rushcutters Bay.
Ciao: Crown Casino eatery Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons was one of the first restaurants to adopt a no-bookings policy.
Almost 30 staff from Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons are owed wages and superannuation, while Marchetti's company, Cucina Casalinga Italian, owes $263,330 to the Australian Tax Office and more than $217,000 to Crown Casino. Marchetti said he had apologised to staff and vowed to repay ''as much money as possible''.
''I have been restructuring the company. Basically, we put one of our companies into voluntary administration, as Neild Avenue, which we sold, [and] put me in a hole. That restaurant was broken. We couldn't get it back from the woods. We agreed not to renew the lease at Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons and we sold North Bondi Italian. It folded. We got it wrong,'' he said.
The high-profile chef was panned by creditors for failing to attend a liquidators' meeting at Crown Casino three weeks ago. Marchetti claimed he was represented by ''one of the best in the business'' at the meeting. But this has been denied by three creditors who were present.
Closed: The menu is removed from the windows in the wake of the restaurant's collapse. Photo: Penny Stephens
Marchetti also took a swipe at Australia's culture of cutting down ''tall poppies'' who dared to follow their dreams. ''In America, you are encouraged to have a crack. I'm not a murderer. I'm not a public figure. I'm selling my assets as I'm having some trouble in our business. Our success pile is far greater than the failures.''
But several suppliers - with long memories - doubted they would recoup any of their debts after Marchetti failed to respond to phone calls and emails requesting payment.
In 2001, Marchetti's half-brother Bill Marchetti fled to India days before liquidators discovered his Melbourne institution Latin and Tuscan Grill owed $1 million. He left behind his family and has never returned to Australia.
When told that some had said the demise of his restaurant had evoked memories of his half-brother, Robert Marchetti said: ''I'm not my brother.''