Monica Galetti interview, plus two recipes
A chocolate dessert and a fab main course from the woman who puts chefs through their paces on MasterChef: the Professionals
Monica Galetti is one of the best known faces in the show MasterChef: the Professionals, where she puts professional chefs through their paces and tells them, in no uncertain terms, if they are making a mess of things. She is also the senior sous chef at the famous Le Gavroche restaurant in London, which has become a sort of shrine for foodies. She was born in Samoa, moved to Wellington in New Zealand in 1982 when she was seven, and has worked at Le Gavroche almost continuously since 1999. She is married to the Le Gavroches sommelier (wine expert), has a young daughter and lives in South London.
Q You always give the chefs on 'MasterChef: the Professionals' a hard time. Do you enjoy being scary?
Monica Galetti: Im not sure Im scary, but I treat all the chefs as professionals. I expect them to be very serious. I feel that they are representing the profession. I expect them to do their research before they come on the show and I get quite deflated if they havent prepared property.
Q It it hard to be a female boss in a top kitchen?
Monica Galetti: You have to be very serious. It is a male atmosphere, and if you relax too much people will take the mickey and try to get away with things. On the few occasions when Ive let my guard down, Ive always regretted it.
Q Why do chefs come on the show? Do you think they enjoy being humiliated?
Monica Galetti: A few come because they believe that they can be the next Gordon Ramsay; some come because theyve got a point to prove. But most of the winners have been hard working chefs who want to get their next career break and want to show what they are capable of.
Q You seem to enjoy working with knives...
Monica Galetti: I love it. It was one of the great attractions of being a chef. I used to go home and practice trying to cut faster and better. Ive only once cut myself badly, when I managed to stick an oyster knife into my hand. But on two occasions Ive been stabbed by other chefs - on the last occasion it was when we were working in a confined space and a colleague moved too fast.
Q What is sapasui?
Monica Galetti: Oh, I love sapasui. Its a Samoan style of chop suey. I also love luau which is dish with coconut leaf and taro leaf. And I adore limulimu (sea grapes). Theyre delicious but you cant buy them here. Youll have to make a trip to Samoa if you want to try them.
Q Have you been to Samoa recently?
Monica Galetti: I was there last Christmas. I hadnt been there for 25 years, but I love it. I have very strong memories of the place. I feel that its my home. My mum goes back quite often. Shes now the head of the family and shes been made a chief out there.
Q What do they think of you in Samoa?
Monica Galetti: When I last went there, I did some interviews. I was made an ambassador for tourism and I met the Prime Minister. I dont think theyd really heard of me, but now they seem to be quite proud of my achievements.
Q Do you get much fan mail?
Monica Galetti: I get a lot of lovely old men and woman who tell me how much they enjoy the show and how theyre still learning about food. I get some foodies who appreciate what I do, although some of them can be a bit tedious because they want to pick me up on things they feel Im doing wrong. And I get children - often as young as nine and ten - who want to tell me how much they enjoy cooking: they often send me their favourite recipes.
Q What do you cook at home?
Monica Galetti: Im never far away from my griddle pan. I love to griddle steaks and fish and just about anything. Its very easy and the family love it.
Q Do people often stop you in the street?
Monica Galetti: I do get stopped a fair bit. Sometimes its a bit inconvenient because they want to talk and Ive got to go and pick up my daughter from school or get ready for work. They often say Youre much nicer in person, than you are on TV. They also ask if Gregg Wallace (the presenter of the show) is really as greedy as he appears on television|!
Q Youre running a course, teaching people how to cook. Will you be mean to them?
Monica Galetti: The course is described as the Monica Galetti Experience. It is held just above the studios where 'Saturday Kitchen' is filmed. The course is designed for foodies, who want to cook Michelin-style food at home. Ill be using basic ingredients, but teaching more interesting techniques. Its supposed to be fun.
Q Do you have any other ambitions?
Monica Galetti: Im working on a new cookbook. Within the next three or four years, my husband and I would like to open a small restaurant - nothing too posh. Were not trying to heal the world - theres enough people doing that. We just want to feed people and get them drunk.
Monica hosts the Monica Galetti Experience at Cactus Kitchens - for bookings and information visit www.cactuskitchens.co.uk
Buy Monica's Kitchen by Monica Galetti at allaboutyoubookshop.co.uk