MasterChef’s Monica Galetti looks back: ‘I was feisty, impatient and unafraid’

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Photograph of Monica Galetti and her friend Jérôme Merdrignac successful 2003 which has been recreated successful 2024.Monica Galetti and her friend Jérôme Merdrignac successful 2003 and 2024. Later photograph: Pål Hansen. Styling: Andie Redman. Hair and makeup/grooming: Ashleigh Haines. Archive image: courtesy of Monica Galetti

Born successful Samoa successful 1975, Monica Galetti is a chef, MasterChef judge and Amazing Hotels presenter. She developed a passion for nutrient connected her family’s plantation connected nan land of Upolu, earlier moving to New Zealand, wherever she established her sanction successful nan world of good dining. In 1999, Galetti moved to London to activity for Michel Roux Jr astatine his two-Michelin-starred restaurant, Le Gavroche, wherever she met her friend, Jérôme Merdrignac, who runs nan London-based boutique canine stepping business, Active Barks. Galetti is moving pinch The Singleton whisky marque connected its caller Dream Gathering campaign.


Oh my gosh. I person a vivid representation of this photograph being taken: we were having a meal statement pinch a group of friends astatine our flat. Shortly before, Jérôme and I were fighting complete nan bath mirror. He was hogging it! I was surviving pinch 5 sommeliers, including Jérôme, truthful location was a batch of vino and I was astir apt connected cooking duties. I was 27; feisty, impatient and unafraid.

Jérôme and I met astatine Le Gavroche. My first thoughts were that he was really hot. When he told maine he was gay, I thought: “Oh great! Typical!” But we became adjacent friends. Plus, his champion friend turned retired to beryllium my early hubby [sommelier David Galetti]. The remainder is history.

Over nan years, we worked, lived and partied together. It was a batch of fun, but we took our jobs earnestly and worked difficult too. It was a engaged clip – a batch of precocious nights. We were a hospitality household, truthful location was ever personification coming location betwixt midnight and 3 successful nan morning. On the weekends, Jérôme astir apt didn’t moreover make it location astatine all. I loved that house. It was a happy place.

Finding a support web was incredibly important to me. I moved to London unsocial astatine 23 from New Zealand. I was raised successful nan Pacific islands, and by comparison nan metropolis had an astonishing power and was very cosmopolitan and diverse. So were nan group – although, admittedly, astir of my friends were French sommeliers.

Back then, I’d picture myself arsenic a massive risk-taker. I was impulsive and never turned down a dare. But information and a chosen family meant a lot to maine too. I’ve been very fortunate that Jérôme has been portion of that, and 20 years later thing has changed. Together we’ve weathered each large wind – nan bully and nan bad. He was location astatine my wedding. He’s been a brilliant “guncle” – cheery uncle – to my daughter. He is ever location quietly, fresh pinch a hug, fresh to perceive during each nan reliable times I’ve faced, whether that beryllium losing personification successful my family aliases activity stress.

He was location during my modulation from nan room to nan TV, too. I recovered that full acquisition challenging and awkward – chiefly nan displacement from being a master cook into a personality, and nan truth that group abruptly had an sentiment of my characteristic alternatively than my activity [Galetti was dubbed “nasty Monica” by viewers of MasterChef]. Throughout that time, Jérôme was patient – he was truthful bully astatine keeping maine grounded, saying: “No, you are a good person, what you’re doing is right.” Or: “Babe, you request to cheque successful pinch 1 of your friends astatine nan dentist.” The friends that aren’t acrophobic to bring up nan whiteness of your teeth are nan ones you request to clasp connected to.

Maintaining friendships is thing you person to activity difficult at. No matter really engaged I am, we ever make an effort to spot each different astatine slightest erstwhile a year. If clip starts to spell by, a sound successful my caput says: you request to cheque successful pinch Jérôme. I request to beryllium booked successful astir 3 to 4 months successful beforehand because of my schedule, but I have recovered that if I spell for agelong stretches without him and nan remainder of our group, I really consciousness sick. Luckily, we person a group WhatsApp chat to move to erstwhile we can’t spot each different – connected it my hubby and I are called Donica, while Jérôme and his partner, Shaun, are Sharome.

I’m not arsenic feisty arsenic I erstwhile was. I’m more controlled emotionally. I take time to think. My motto is: quick to listen, slow to talk and slow to anger. The impulsiveness has lessened, too. Everything is different erstwhile you’re a mother. Everything becomes a decision. You request to conscionable hold a minute and deliberation astir it, arsenic opposed to jumping consecutive in. But Jérôme is nan same. He has a saccharine tooth, truthful immoderate happens, I request to make judge there’s a dessert. A pavlova. Or a creme brulee. I like to spoil him and make judge I americium enjoying each infinitesimal and opportunity I get pinch him. When we are together, everything clicks backmost to wherever we near off. David and Jérôme don’t extremity talking, and erstwhile we’re not talking, we’re focused connected eating bully food, drinking bully vino and having tons of laughter. And dogs. Lots of dogs.

When I was young and chasing occurrence arsenic a chef, everything other came second. Especially successful hospitality, pinch its unsociable hours, it is easy to suffer a lot connected nan measurement up, whether it beryllium family time, relationship aliases partners. I feel very fortunate that God threw Jérôme into my area and said: “Right, this is who you’ve got. Keep him close. As adjacent arsenic possible.”


Monica and I lived together successful a five-bedroom location connected Baker Street successful cardinal London. Our spot was ever busy, pinch tons of friends coming successful and out. This would person been astatine immoderate benignant of party. We had tons of parties.

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I’ve been moving successful nan canine business for 8 years, but earlier that I was successful restaurants. David and I were champion friends, and we came from Paris together successful 2001. The first clip I met Monica, she was moving successful nan room astatine Le Gavroche and I was a sommelier. We sewage connected consecutive away, and would often spell retired clubbing successful Soho and Farringdon. I was location nan nighttime she first kissed David. I knew it was going to happen! Life pinch Monica was ever very fun, but complete clip our relationship grew person and closer.

What first drew maine to Monica? I liked her passion for her occupation and for food. She was a passionate personification successful general, arsenic good arsenic being friends and truthful approachable. Over nan decades she has supported maine a batch emotionally. As a cheery person, life has sometimes been challenging, but I tin ever talk to Monica astir immoderate troubles I americium having, from first boyfriends to first breakups.

Monica is very busy, overmuch busier than me, truthful we person to scheme measurement successful beforehand and fresh it into her schedule. When we are together it is ever truthful easy. She shows her emotion done listening, arsenic good arsenic food, and we will often beryllium successful her plot and person barbecues pinch beautiful large salads. I try to do nan aforesaid for her. She mislaid her dog successful September which was very upsetting. I sent flowers.

As she is simply a nationalist figure, she gets a lot of attraction if we spell out. It’s unusual to spot her connected TV, but I cognize who she really is, and I do get protective of her arsenic she is very delicate contempt having to beryllium beardown connected screen.

Whatever happens, we tin ever count connected each other. While I miss my family backmost successful Brittany I person made a new 1 successful London, and Monica is at the bosom of it.

Source theguardian