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Chef sues Rockpool for alleged wage theft

Celebrity chef Neil Perry's high-end restaurant empire is being sued for allegedly underpaying a chef who worked gruelling 20-hour shifts at the prestigious Rockpool Bar & Grill restaurant in Melbourne.

Rohit Karki claims he worked more than 70 hours per week, including 20-hour shifts from 4am to midnight over consecutive days without breaks for $12 an hour.

The chef alleges he was forced to sleep on a pastry bench between shifts and his work conditions "significantly deteriorated" after his visa sponsorship was secured in 2013.

The Federal Court claim - through Maurice Blackburn Lawyers - covers six years of alleged underpayment from 2012 until Mr Karki resigned in March this year.

Mr Karki allegedly complained to Rockpool about his underpayment and treatment in November 2018 and claims he was then bullied and pressured to resign.

Maurice Blackburn principal Josh Bornstein claims Rockpool has committed several serious contraventions of the award and Fair Work Act.

"This is another Dickensian example of wage theft and exploitation of vulnerable workers that is all too common in the hospitality industry," Mr Bornstein said in a statement on Sunday.

"Rockpool is no bit player. It's a highly profitable business empire which has been cheating."

Maurice Blackburn is seeking compensation for Mr Karki in the Federal Court of Australia and "significant penalties" to be paid by Rockpool for contraventions of the Fair Work Act.

The law firm will also ask the Federal Court to order an external and comprehensive audit of the business to identify any other breaches.

A Rockpool spokeswoman said the company is not in a position to comment as the matter is before the court.

"We continue to work with the Fair Work Ombudsman and past and present employees regarding any amounts that may be owing," she said in a statement to AAP on Sunday.

The claim follows celebrity chef George Calombaris's $200,000 fine after a Fair Work Ombudsman investigation found he underpaid staff by nearly $8 million.

© AAP 2019