Former Bon Aroma restaurant head chef Adam O'Hara cooked thousands of meals at the award-winning eatery, helping it secure several regional awards and the title of Australia's best pizza restaurant in 2011.
But last month, Mr O'Hara was left jobless and thousands of dollars out of pocket for unpaid staff entitlements and superannuation when the restaurant suddenly shut its doors.
The company behind the eatery, BF Group Pty Ltd, went into voluntary liquidation on August 5, owing $419,000 to the tax department and more than $17,000 in unpaid staff entitlements.
Mr O'Hara, who is owed nearly $8000 in unpaid entitlements, said the debt was a "kick in the guts" as he had worked tirelessly to help make the eatery an award winner.
"I was definitely part of that team [when we won the 2011 award], I'd worked there for six years," he said.
"I'd been there a long time and put a lot of effort in - then [for me] not to be paid entitlements and super, it's just a kick in the guts."
Former assistant chef Kim Cousins was also left without work when the restaurant closed on July 23.
She said she was still shocked about the restaurant's sudden demise as she had no idea it was in trouble.
"When the boss told me she was shutting, I thought she meant for the day," she said.
"I just couldn't believe it; I'd been prepping on Sunday and Monday for a busy week, it's just a shock.
"I gave them so much of my time and I loved my job; I learnt everything in that kitchen."
While the 24-year-old has been able to find other work, taking on a head chef position at Cafe on Legs on Wollongong's Corrimal Street, she said many other staff had not been as lucky.
"No-one had time to plan anything, there are apprentices out there who can't find work," she said.
"I feel sorry for them, it's so hard to find work [anywhere], let alone as a first-year apprentice."
Liquidator Cliff Sanderson met with several ex-employees on Tuesday at a creditors' meeting.
While a full investigation into the company's financial affairs is yet to be conducted, Mr Sanderson said it was likely unpaid staff entitlements would be "higher" than the $17,000 originally flagged.
The company also owes $419,000 to the tax department and $1500 to Origin Energy and Telstra.
Mr Sanderson said it was "too early to tell" if there would be any return to creditors.
The liquidators' investigation could take up to two months.
The Mercury understands the Princes Highway restaurant has re-opened with new owners.