Master Chef Monica Galetti on life in Surrey
Monica Galetti talks about food, travel, being a role model and life in Surrey with her husband David and their daughter
Monica Galetti is well-known for her hard stares and no-nonsense attitude as one of the judges and mentors in BBC series, MasterChef: The Professionals. And it’s this steely determination that saw her become the first female senior sous chef at Michel Roux Jnr’s two Michelin star restaurant, Le Gavroche, in Mayfair – a position she held up until 2015.Since leaving, she and her sommelier husband David Galetti, have opened their own restaurant Mere in Fitzrovia last year, blending classical French cuisine with a South Pacific flare. Monica Galetti takes the time out of her busy schedule to chat to us about her influences and why she loves living in Surrey.
What inspired you to become a professional chef?
Cooking and food in general have always been a strong passion of mine, my mother taught me from a young age and I really enjoyed being in the kitchen though it was travelling that really opened my eyes. I wanted to travel and learn about different cultures, and I learnt a lot about food and my passion for cooking grew from there.
Who are your biggest culinary influences?
There are so many. I’ve always admired Alain Ducasse, I also love the Roca brothers in Girona, Spain. And of course the Roux family who helped shape me into the chef that I am today. Before we opened Mere to the public we invited the Michel Roux Jr and Silvano Giraldin [former Le Gavroche manager] in for a private lunch, just them, so they could try the food and tour Mere before anyone else.
My advice to any young person carving out a career as a chef would just to be keep your head down and work hard.
What motivated your decision to put roots down in Banstead?
We used to live really central, just round the corner from where Mere is – actually in Fitzrovia – and we loved it but thought it was important to get out of the city when Anais was born so she could enjoy having a big garden to play in. It’s close enough that we can get to and from the restaurant with ease and far enough out that we can enjoy peace and privacy at the weekends.
What local restaurants are your favourites?
We love going to our local Thai in Cheam.
What is your ideal day out in your local area?
We’re spoiled for choice on great parks in and around south London and Surrey so an ideal day would consist of heading out for a walk as a family with our two dogs, often in Banstead Woods and then stopping at a pub for lunch before walking back home.
With the popularity of Masterchef: The Professionals showing no sign of abating, what is it about the show that makes you want to be a part of it?
I really enjoy working with young and passionate chefs so being part of the Masterchef: The Professionals team I get to spend a lot of time with inspiring new talent. I too used to be a young chef who was just starting out in the industry so I love being able to help mentor and guide them on their journey.
With both you and your husband David involved in Mere, how do you manage work/life balance? It’s been great having him by my side throughout the whole process of opening and now into our second year of the business. Time has really flown! We often get asked this question but to be honest at work we don’t see all that much of each other. I’m busy running the kitchen and he is busy working the front-of-house, the only time I will see him is if he nips in or before service if we sit down to have a quick lunch with the team. Now that the restaurant is running smoothly and our team has really settled in we are able to take the odd evening or morning off to spend with Anais and the dogs, which is a real luxury. The first year was very full on. Then Sundays are always our family day. As a rule we don’t talk about work when we are at home and try to switch off for the day. Our daughter is quick to pull us up if we do slip up and start talking work. She definitely keeps us in check!
You are a great role model for women in such a male-dominated industry. What advice do you have for others wanting to follow in your footsteps? Do you think things are changing? It’s flattering to hear that I’m a role model for young women in the industry. To be honest I never really thought too much about being a woman in the kitchen, I was just focused on being the best chef I can possibly be. My advice to any young person carving out a career as a chef would just to be keep your head down and work hard. Get as much experience and training as you can and keep practicing.