Monica Galetti and Lisa Goodwin-Allen
Monica Galetti and Lisa Goodwin-Allen
The top chefs talk to Holly Louise Eells about their food ‘Obsession’, encouraging a new generation of chefs and why they love their industry…
Monica Galetti and Lisa Goodwin-Allen’s passion for what they do is clear to both fans of their restaurants and viewers of their TV shows. And in January and February, they will be sharing their love for their craft and their industry with 15 other world-class chefs as they descend on Lisa’s restaurant Northcote in the Ribble Valley of Lancashire for culinary festival Obsession 22.
It is known as one of the most reputable and internationally recognised gourmet events in Europe, and it will showcase chefs travelling from all over the UK and Ireland to cook their unique Obsession menus of, “Different styles of cooking, different regional ingredients, and different flavours,” says Lisa. “What I am looking forward to most is the live event again after an incredibly hard 18 months. With the hospitality industry taking such a hit, we’re all ready to put on a show of culinary brilliance. We have some great emerging chefs like Alex Bond, and much-loved household names, as well as some of the UK’s best female chefs, joining us.”
Monica, who will be cooking with Lisa in the grand finale alongside Nieves Barragán-Mohacho from Michelin-starred Sabor, says she can’t wait: “This is only my second time at Obsession, and we had such a blast the first year with Lisa and her team.”
It will indeed be an incredible celebration with the pandemic and Brexit having battered the hospitality industry particularly hard. And Monica and Lisa are both worried that, despite all the interest in shows such as MasterChef: The Professionals, which Monica has judged and co-hosted for 13 years, the industry needs to do more to demonstrate its attractiveness going forward to encourage people to enter a career in hospitality.
Monica, who is the owner of Mere in Fitzrovia with her sommelier husband David Galetti, says it is such a fantastic industry to be in. “There is the travel that comes with hospitality, the relationships, and all the creativity. I think we have to push that and show people. This industry receives a lot of negative publicity but we don’t push the positives of how wonderful the hospitality industry is instead.”
Recruitment is tough. “We are really not sure how that will improve if we are not making hospitality attractive to the next generation.”
Leading the kitchen brigade at the age of 23 at Northcote, Lisa is a pioneer for encouraging young people into the industry. She explains, “When I was younger I struggled a bit academically, but I loved food and cooking. Food enabled me to come out of my shell and I felt I could discover who I was through food.”
She adds, “It is a very attractive industry as you can do anything and go anywhere in the hospitality sector.” As well as Northcote, Lisa oversees the direction of The Stafford London’s restaurant, The Game Bird, and is a fixture on our TV screens in James Martin’s series, and has been a judge on the Great British Menu and on MasterChef.
Lisa and Monica both shared some optimistic experiences and valuable lessons during the lockdowns, including creating food boxes, Zoom calls, and keeping up the team morale.
It was a creative nightmare,” laughs Monica. “The food boxes were a great thing to learn to do but I am very glad it is the end and I have the restaurant back. I love seeing people come in again and who are excited to be out celebrating birthdays and anniversaries.”
MONICA AT HOME
With her restaurant, another series of MasterChef and the hit show Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond The Lobby, which she presents with Giles Coren, Monica is certainly busy. But in her downtime, she loves walking her dogs Fynn and Cole near her home in Banstead and her favourite spots locally to dine out include the Thai restaurant in Cheam.
Monica says of Amazing Hotels: “What I love about the show is the people I meet and discovering what the food is all about there. Once Giles and I know the list of the countries we are going to, we find a local restaurant that serves local food so on our evening off we can go and enjoy.”
She adds, “Also, what we have really enjoyed coming to the forefront worldwide is people pushing for local produce and local suppliers. You don’t want to go to Croatia and eat French food, instead, you want to be eating Croatian food. But that is what I love about travelling and the hotels are pretty good too!”
With the MasterChef: The Professionals 2021 winner recently crowned, I had to ask which chefs have impressed Monica? “That is a bit unfair as this has been my 13th year, but there have been so many talented chefs coming through,” she explains. However, 2020’s finalist Santosh Shah is one of the names Monica mentions. “I am so impressed how he has grown to be such a successful restaurateur.”
So, what’s the hardest thing about doing MasterChef? Without hesitation, Monica says, “To have to cope with both Marcus Wareing and Greg Wallace!”
Before the interview came to an end, I wondered if these remarkable chefs ever get a chance to cook at home with their loved ones? “I cook all the time. Otherwise, my hubby will cook, I have trained him up really well,” Monica jokes. “Can you come and train my husband please?” laughs Lisa
- Obsession 22 runs from 21 January to 6 February. Visit www.northcoteobsession.com to register your interest. Tickets are priced at £160 per person, including a Louis Roederer Champagne and canapé reception, five course menu, coffee and petit fours
GET LISA AND MONICA’S TIPS FOR FESTIVE COOKING
READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH MARCUS WAREING