Monica Galetti explains how she teaches her female chefs to speak up for themselves

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

When Monica Galetti started working in kitchens, she said: "Gender didn't come into it. Once you put the chef's jacket on, you were a chef.  It was about being the best or better than the chef that cooked next to you." 

She spoke at the launch of The Cobra Collective on Thursday, joining Cobra founder Lord Karan Bilimoria as well as Michelin-starred chef Andrew Wong, Nisha Katona and Paul Ainsworth's business partner and beer sommelier Ed Hughes to introduce a series of workshops and masterclasses to support the restaurant industry. 

The chef owner of The Mere, who trained with the Roux family at Le Gavroche, was answering the question of whether she runs her kitchen differently to the mostly male-dominated ones where she honed her skills. 

She said: "I don't know why but I do attract a lot of women in the kitchen. At the moment I think I have ten women and two guys."

"I don't employ them just because they are women," she added.

"It's about the ability to cook, not gender."

Cobra Collective launch
Andrew Wong, Monica Galetti, 
Ed Hughes, Nisha Katona and Alexandra Dudley 

"And lucky for me, I have some great talented women in the kitchen. Do I run it differently? No. If anything, I force the women chefs I have to have a voice." 

The chef made clear that while incidents of animosity between male and female chefs do happen, when they do, she deals with it on two levels:

"If one of the boys says something that's not acceptable and she's upset about it, we've all heard, I will stop the service and I will say: "that's not right. You apologise. And then I'll tell her off for not standing up for herself and not saying she didn't like that."

"I would like to think that when the girls do leave my kitchen, they are empowered, they have the balls to speak up for themselves."

The chef said that having three brothers meant that she "was used to battling out with the guys." 

"I guess that's why I settled into kitchens quite well." 

Being tough doesn't work if you don't explain why

Ultimately, the chef said, if she deals with conflict in the way that she does, it is because "it's about getting the job done as a team. I want my people to be happy. If there are any issues, I force them to have it out there and the day after, it's forgotten." 

"If I have a go at them because of service, I explain at the end of service, this is why it's happened and now it's over and tomorrow, it doesn't happen again." 

The chef, who will be leading mentoring sessions and workshops as a founding member of The Cobra Collective, whose aim is to support the restaurant industry by providing internal training to professionals, said that while her management style can be firm at times, she makes sure it is in accordance with the situation, and that her team understand why. 

"It's really important that it's not a kitchen where you shout and shout and you forget what you were shouting about. There has to be a reason. And if you do not explain to your chefs what that reason was, they will never learn." 

"It's something I love doing. Teaching in the kitchen is something that we love to do and you look at them six, seven months down the line and how well they're doing and that makes it worth it." 

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 6th September 2019

Monica Galetti explains how she teaches her female chefs to speak up for themselves