In the Kitchen
When Monica Galetti left New Zealand for the United Kingdom 14 years ago, little did she know that the move would lead to a cooking career that has made her one of the best-known female chefs in London.
The Wellington-raised chef doesn't turn heads here, but in the UK she is widely recognised as one of the judges and presenters on a MasterChef show, MasterChef: The Professionals. On the BBC2 cooking show, in which she judges professional chefs cooking for the title, the Samoan-born chef has a fearsome reputation as "Miss Nasty".
UK food critic Jay Rayner noted how "her intense stare, her inability to hide even for a second her disapproval on her intensively mobile face" has turned Galetti into a cult figure on the show on which chefs compete for the title.
Says Galetti, while home in New Zealand recently: "It's the reality of being a tough chef in a tough environment; why should I change just because it's on camera?"
The 36-year-old is also senior sous chef at the two-Michelin-star restaurant, La Gavroche, in London. It is owned by the legendary Michel Roux Jr, and she has worked there for the past decade.
She was back here to promote her cookbook, Monica's Home Kitchen - Simple Home Cooking, her first which took five months to write and create. There's a section of quick and easy recipes designed for busy working parents like herself. She also features a section on recipes that can be made at leisure, while others are a nod to her Samoan heritage.
"It's a cookbook about me and who I am," says Galetti. "It's a mix of my background and lifestyle and my most preferred types of food. There's a recipe there which includes taro leaves, although they're hard to get in the UK."
Some of the 100 recipes were already part of her cooking repertoire, while others were inherited, such as the olive bacon and fennel cake that her husband, David, a French wine sommelier, grew up eating when his grandmother baked it.
Galetti has just had her fourth year on MasterChef. Filming the next series will start next month.
"I've learned hugely from it. You go and watch the journey of these chefs from the beginning to the end, and some of them are coming from Michelin kitchens."
In her time in London, she has become fond of the fresh produce from France, particularly the pasteurised dairy products.
"There's a huge difference between pasteurised and unpasteurised cheeses," Galetti says.
"I love the fact that over there food is very seasonal. There's a game season, and that kind of thing."
Monica's Kitchen (RRP $49.99, Quadrille Publishing) is out now.
- © Fairfax NZ News