10 minutes with: Monica Galetti

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th March 2015
Last week news spread like wildfire that Monica Galetti had left Le Gavroche after 12 years. In a statement released by the Michelin-starred restaurant Michel Roux Jr wished her well on her new venture. We spoke to Monica about her future plans, working with such iconic chefs and being a part of the Roux family. monica and michel rouxStepping into Le Gavroche is like stepping back in time – in a good way. I don’t think there are many places which could pull off deep red tartan, which is what greets you in the lounge. Downstairs in the restaurant itself it is as you would expect from such a historic and influential family as the Rouxs. Crisp white table clothes, silver statues and china, lovingly accompanied by napkins with solid silver rings. It was the perfect setting for what would be my first and last interview with Monica Galetti as a member of the Le Gavroche brigade. She greeted me in a whirlwind and I took a seat at the chef's library while she changed into her whites and I contemplated what had kept her at Le Gavroche for so long? Her eyes lit up as she explained: “I love it! It’s my playground, its home and its family. People don’t just pass through here, yes there are young ones who come and go but there’s also a network of those of us who have had the longevity and the relationship with the family. This kitchen is an amazing place to be in and you have the freedom to create.” “I came into this kitchen very young,” she added. “It’s been 15 years since I started although I haven’t been here that long, as I left and came back again. It’s been an amazing journey throughout my career to work for such an amazing family.” So what’s the plan for the future? What’s next for Monica who is so closely associated with Le Gavroche and Michel Roux Jr himself? “The plan is to have my own restaurant,” she said. “Any chef’s goal is to achieve their own place, I’ve had to detour a bit and not do things the most practical way and the reason being is that I had a child. I didn’t have to continue working but I love what I do and I’ve been very blessed that I’ve been able to keep a foot in here and raise my daughter.le gavroche dish “She’ll be nine this year and I think it’s time to look at the next stage now. It’s never too late and it’s always something I wanted to achieve and I haven’t – yet!” So the next step is a place of her own but can the bright lights of London keep her here or is it time for a change? She said: “That’s a tough one! I’d like to be closer out to Surrey where we are based, it would make life as a mother easier. But to be realistic in this day and age if you are wanting to do it properly, be busy and full – it would have to be closer to London.” As mentors go Michel would probably be top of most young chefs’ list and as Monica explains, what she learned from him at the beginning still sticks with her now. “Respect for the seasons, respect for ingredients, where you can make something from waste - right through to presentation and what’s under the plate,” she laughed. “God the amount of times a s a young chef you put a plate up and you think it’s perfect and Michel picks it up and runs his hand under the plate! He says ‘that comes off the plate, onto the tablecloth then off the tablecloth and it marks the table’. So I’ve picked up a lot of that from him – he’s a perfectionist.” She added: “He is very fair and very stern. He’s got eyes like an eagle and he’s been an amazing mentor to learn from. He’s got amazing eye for detail, eye for service – I came into this kitchen at the point where it was normal to be physical and there was a lot of shouting, I’ve seen it and been on the receiving end of it but that has died out in our kitchen and there is no place for it anymore. Michel has said ‘what does that achieve at the end of the day?’ well you lose your staff don’t you? You can still be very firm but fair, you can have a laugh but there is a point to be serious.” roux brothers - credit daily mailIn this male dominated industry Monica is proud to be able stand alongside them and do the job in exactly the same capacity, she hopes that more young women will keep pushing into the industry but says they have to have the passion for it. She said: “Michel is very pro woman! He’s got no choice now, once he got one he had to get more. It doesn’t alter the dynamics and I think Rachel Humphrey (head chef) and I have been a part of this kitchen for so long, we don’t see it as different. The tough thing is although we are getting an influx of young women at the moment as they go on in the kitchen and come up in the ranks, the more difficult the section they end up on and that’s when we start losing them. “You try as much as you can to be supportive. I want to see women do well – I’m proud that I’ve been able to do every section in this kitchen. Rachel is the only other woman who has done it and we also have Rene who is our sous chef. There’s no other woman who has been able to cook the fish and the meat over the last 15 years alone. It is very physical and very tough work, and the drive has got to be there.” Although she mentioned there are times to be serious, working in the kitchen itself must be something she enjoys or she wouldn’t have remained part of the team for over decade. Being a part of Michel’s team has also allowed her opportunities she may not have had such as a door into TV.Monica and the cuttlefish “I hate the term celebrity chef,” she said. “I’m just a plain, ordinary chef who sweats it out in the kitchen with everyone else. TV was never intentional, it was only supposed to be a ten minute slot and it just grew from there.” She added: “Everyone who works on MasterChef has the same goal in mind and that is to find amazing talent. For me as well, I love learning from these amazing young chefs who are coming through.” Both Monica and Michel have hectic schedules but when they are in the kitchen together it’s something she really enjoys. She said: “It’s nice to catch up, you don’t get enough time sometimes and it’s odd if I go a week and I haven’t seen him – it’s something I will miss when I leave this place.” By Cara Pilkington

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th March 2015

10 minutes with: Monica Galetti