Monica Galetti is Sous Chef to Michel Roux Jr at Le Gavroche and became famous appearing alongside him on Masterchef: The Professionals. Monica lives with her husband David, the restaurant’s sommelier, and their six-year-old daughter, Anais.
What’s your first memory of food?
It has to be back in my childhood on the islands of Western Samoa where I was born. For me, my memory of food is climbing a tree and picking my own pineapple out of the pineapple plants. On Sundays, my uncles used to make a big bonfire where they baked all the meats and vegetables. One uncle used to get a ripe banana, wrap it in banana leaves and bake it in the rocks for me. That was a real treat. He’d always catch me on a Sunday hanging round waiting for a baked banana to come out the fire!
What was the very first meal you ever cooked?
It’s normal in our culture for the girls to cook and help out from a young age, so that’s what I did. I remember cooking what we call chop suey, which is based on vermicelli noodles and you put beef, soy sauce and garlic in it – very Asian.
What’s your favourite meal to cook?
It depends on the situation. My absolute favourite meal is shellfish, with fresh bread, fresh aioli and bubbly. But if it’s the weekend and I’m spending time with my husband and daughter, then we have a huge weakness for a great rib of beef with lovely vegetables and a nice bottle of red. It’s very simple fare, but it’s what we love.
Do you cook much with your daughter?
Yes, it’s our special time. I’d rather she was in the kitchen with me cooking something than staying in front of the TV all day. She enjoys it, but sometimes when I need to knock out a quick meal and she wants to peel and chop, she slows me down. I kind of want to kick her out the room! But I can’t complain, she’s such a good girl and we don’t want to force her to do cooking, we want her to enjoy it and have some time with us. She says, ‘I’m a big girl now, I can make my own scrambled egg,’ and I just stand there watching it fly all over the place!
What’s your favourite comfort food?
I love peanut butter and jam on Ryvita. But I also love Marmite with loads of butter on toast. The problem is I just can’t stop!
What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
Well, that’s a tough one! I’d say definitely up there was a meal at Paul Bocuse. I was just in awe of being in the restaurant of the master, and he was walking around, greeting everyone. The food was perfectly cooked and it was all about great flavour – and lots of calories! I’ve been quite blessed and quite lucky to have eaten a lot of amazing meals. But to be able to eat there while the great chef’s still alive makes it very memorable.
When did you realise you wanted to be a chef?
I was 18 and studying for a tourism diploma, and as part of the diploma, I had to spend about eight weeks in the kitchen. That’s when I knew. I’d always enjoyed cooking, but this was something completely different to what I was used to and I just fell in love with it.
Can you teach anyone to cook or are some people just hopeless?
Some people are just hopeless! You could go black and blue trying to explain something to them and they just won’t get it. The easiest people for me to teach are those who enjoy it and want to learn. They don’t care about making mistakes, they just love that they’re learning something new.
What’s your top tip for dinner parties?
Keep it simple. And once you’ve got the hang of the recipe, then start exploring and adding your own flair to it. If you’re cooking for a party of people, and you’ve not tested the recipe, I suggest you do something you’re comfortable with. Don’t fluster yourself.
Monica is hosting the Monica Galetti Experience and the Michel & Monica Experience at Cactus Kitchens. To book your place and for more info about all the Experiences on offer, go to www.cactuskitchens.co.uk
To read our Five Minutes With… Kimberley Walsh, click here.