We sit down with Monica Galetti, former MasterChef: The Professionals Judge and Chef Ambassador for the 2023 Hotel, Restaurant, and Catering Show to discuss her career, event catering tips and her favourite dish.
Hi Monica! You’ve had quite a career. Tell us how you got there…
I started my career in New Zealand. I did my training there and then started taking part in competitions while I was working, representing New Zealand in competitions in Australia and Oceania before coming to Europe. I fell in love with it here, particularly London. I sent my CV off to loads of Michelin star restaurants and Michel Roux Jr. at Le Gavroche was the first to reply so I took up a position as a commis there.
In 2004, I moved to open Le Gavroche in Mauritius, and later I opened my own restaurant, Mere, which is named after my late mother. In 2008, I became involved in filming MasterChef, initially a short 15-minute stint on television but my role continued to grow, and it’s something that I still love being a part of, seeing the new talent of the future.
So what started your interest in cooking?
In Samoan culture food is very much about family. I took the fresh ingredients for granted as a child, everything grown or caught fishing. I’ve always loved being a part of the excitement in the kitchen, so it was natural that I became a chef.
What will your role at the show involve?
I’ll be there during the salon that they have, just to talk and hopefully inspire young chefs to get involved in the industry.
There’s been a huge shortage of new talent coming through and the pandemic had a massive effect, so I want to show that it’s still an exciting and rewarding industry to be in.
The cook-off is always the best part. I mean it’s great to meet new producers as well and have people showing off their wares, but it’s when the adrenaline gets pumping and the chefs are really going for it, especially in that last half an hour.
Is it very different running a kitchen in a restaurant and catering for an event?
It’s a massive difference when you’re dealing with hundreds and thousands of covers. It’s been awe-inspiring when I’ve done large events, how smoothly it can be run, even with the sheer amount of work.
You have to try not to lose your cool, especially if you’re the one heading the team. If you lose it, you lose control of the service. It’s part of managing and learning this is very different to just cooking.
Finally, what’s your comfort food after a long day of cooking?
Well, I’m going home tonight, and my husband is doing a nice roast, which will be lovely. Home cooking is so nice, although I don’t think any chefs go home and do six courses for themselves.
I love a roast chicken, to the point that my daughter went off it for a while because we were having it so often!