« Desert Island Discs

Monica Galetti, chef and restaurateur

2021-01-31 | 🔗
Monica Galetti is a chef, restaurateur and cook book writer, who is also known as a judge on the television series MasterChef: the Professionals. Born on the island of Upolu in Western Samoa, she grew up on the family plantation where her earliest food memories are of collecting eggs and mangoes and peeling bananas for special suppers. When she was eight she moved to New Zealand where her mother and stepfather had emigrated a couple of years earlier. After studying hospitality management and enjoying success in numerous cooking competitions, she travelled around Europe before settling in London where she found work as a commis chef at the Roux family’s restaurant, Le Gavroche. Under the watchful eye of Michel Roux Jr, she rose through the ranks to become Le Gavroche’s first female sous chef. She opened her own restaurant in 2017 where she works alongside her husband David who is head sommelier and co-owner. DISC ONE: Three Little Birds by Bob Marley And The Wailers DISC TWO: Samoa Matalasi (My Beautiful Samoa) by The Five Stars DISC THREE: You Oughta Be in Love by Dave Dobbyn (ft. Ardijah) DISC FOUR: Hotel California by The Eagles DISC FIVE: La Vie en Rose by Louis Armstrong DISC SIX: My Girl by The Temptations DISC SEVEN: Purple Rain by Prince DISC EIGHT: Feeling Good by Nina Simone BOOK CHOICE: The complete Works of Oscar Wilde LUXURY ITEM: Scuba diving gear CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Three Little Birds by Bob Marley And The Wailers Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Paula McGinley
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Bbc sounds music. Radio, podcasts, hello, I'm Lauren Laverne, and this is the desert island discs podcast. Every week I ask my guests to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they'd want to take with them if they were cast away to a desert, island and for rights reasons. The music is water than the original broadcast? I hope you enjoy listening. I the passed away this week is the chef Monica Letty as John tv's masterchef, the professionals she's been opening contestants skills and occasionally cutting them down to size for over a decade, but
Food has been central to her life since the beginning. Her first memories are collecting, send mangoes on the family plantation in similar after to new zealand. She trained and hospitality, making a name for herself in the cut throat world of competitive cookery before follow. her dream moving to london to train with russia won't royalty, the rue family, one of the few, to have made it to the top in her profession, she's now running a restaurant of her own named in honour of her mother. You talk, the values that have been central to her success. She says: there's always a problem every day there's a problem. The main thing is to keep calm. If you lose the plot, the team will see it, and the last thing they need to see is us at the top running the show panicking stay calm and be quick on fixing a problem. Stopping a problem head on is vital. Monica getting well connected as island discs? Thank you for having me so
It has been a time to keep calm. Monica is now isn't it isn't it just so moniker of course, along with the rest of the hospitality sector, you're dealing with the all consuming problem. At the moment the coronavirus in your restaurant closed for the third time late last year and then remains closed today. How are you imagine on a day to day basis- and you know that the last closure was the third time- was really tough. Everyone was coming up to to christmas season so yeah he had pre ordered everything from your suppliers and we were given twenty four hour notice or you know a nauseous, so much money arm won't say wasted in. I gave a locked away to to my team to make sure everyone had a doggy bag to take home and, and there were a cave for a few days with it all, but to the best is it just you know a complete write off and the pressure must be really intense. How are you coping with that and better? I guess, because
I had a few runs at it now and know. The first lockdown was was rural emotional. For me, it took me in a couple of weeks to really accept what was going on going from camp,
elite madness and being so busy to doing nothing. So I had to to adjust to it and accept. There was nothing I could do about it. Nothing! That's the hardest thing for people like me who are control freaks, and there was just it was taken out of your hands. You can't plan for it. You you've just got to accept there and then some way and finding a way to to focus and get through keeping busy or finding a routine during the day. A reason to to get up and and be busy is what I've found has helped. You are very good at keeping cool in a crisis. Is it true that you once caught the top of your finger off during a cookery demo and just kept going? I said: oh my gosh, it was horrible and in a blessing- and I had a little girl on on stage with me, helping this poor little girl hope I put her awful condition. Some are you going to be all right, I'll, say yay?
why she goes hooker, because you are you bleeding everywhere and I was like. Oh it's nothing and you know until I got off the stage and they try to find the the other part of it, but because the quote I have about the other part is lobbed it into a bin. Yes, I just wiped everything off the bench into the into the bed, because I had a little girl with me and I didn't want her to to to to freak out or to panic just quickly what the the everything that was on there clean the top of my thumb yep. So on that rather brutal note it's time for disc number one. What's it going to be monica and wifi chosen this this number one is: are three little birds by bob marley and the wailers couldn't be more true to to how we are at the moment and also for me just memories of her. Family, getting together christmas mornings in the summer and in new zealand, and it's just to feel good too
about the the I no, the. The three little bit by bit marley and the wailers monica gulati you are born on the island of apolo in western samoa. Tell me a little bit more about the place. What was it like? It's paradise, it's as just you know, beautiful, clear blue waters, some of the most friendliest of people you you will come across and and and our culture is, you know very much about music dance, family food as as very special to me. So you lived on a plantation, you had lots of extended family close by so there's a strong kind of family net
But yes, we have you know a family plot. A big family plot is like a main house there and in a round that would be sort of smaller in our homes of ofa other relatives. So you know it was just a great place to grow up the child We'll never lie and who always someone to play with and when it came to play. if a tomboy? So I imagine lots of climbing trees and stuff like that? Absolutely no climbing trees always getting in trouble because I'd say one on the cocoa plant and eat the. You know the pop that you make her chocolate from No, I'm getting a smack of my bum because, as you know, they say you guess we'll tommy if eat too much of it. Now you biological father, wasn't part of your life I mentioned in the introduction, your mother was a huge influence. How would you describe her very strong? She became that the head of our family, the the someone a way of life, is in a sort of run by the head of the family, who saw the title of chief and my family sort of quite prestigious and in the title that they come with, and so mum was head of the family for a while until
She was the main breadwinner and worked long hours and it when you were young as a telephone operator system who looked after you and your siblings, want him on this way. I can my aunties high, dumb anti being a was that the main one in charge, because on tee ass I was in a wheelchair cause. She was born with polio, but in that didn't make her by any means that the less one of the two, because she had opinion and the marion she could pinch. Areas of fifty were naughty or if I was naughty, he led a pinch but also very loving. You know our member them in a holding me too, to put me to sleep in a some some nights, her male crying wanting my mom and and and stuff and anti being it just rocky me too, to sleep and from the time you have five. Also you got involved with food.
Creation what was your job? I was just so curious one. The majority of the hard work that was done was what we call all moors as the sum when all the food sort of baked in a huge pit, they make a fire with a volcanic rocks when the fire dies down, you take it all apart and all the foods be prepared mix some by the women and the men like her in our hopes on a payg, for example the vegetables, wrapped in banana leaves and fish like sir, and now you then lay them inside these. These rocks and covered with banana leaves the sorrel roasting and steaming at the same time. So I used to try and help. I think that'll got in the way more than anything trying to people like that, the green bananas echo with them. They have the slow peal of it. They are made of the piece of work, and I remember, being covered and get all sticky with it before I stomach start rumbling monica. I think we better get into disk number two take a moment, Visser music. What are we going to hear next next is
if tune the marines so much to me as cold as some warm water losee and my beautiful war by the five stars and your used to dance to that she was a dancer, yeah well, culture is very much of a lot of it is to do with someone dancing traditional dancing in and out of one of my first memories, I remember was some sitting on the veranda watching my mom on an adult. Great practicing. just how graceful she was samuel
but, alas, my beautiful samoa, the five stars, monica gillespie when you Very small, your mother and stepfather made the difficult decision to emigrate to new zealand. How did you find out they were leaving and how old were you? I think I must have been about five five or six year. I don't recall, being told that they were leaving arm, I think or say goodbye to her one day and and then started being explained in a way that mom had gone away by a nose as at the age. You just think your mom's gone away, she's coming back, but you know she had taken my brothers with her. My two older brothers were there at the time and my aunts who had raised us. You know one mom was working in that so pleaded with mom to leave me and my sister back in and saw more with them. And, of course you know you you would have known, he must have been told that they were.
Trying to build a better life for all of you, yeah aegis dinner, had no understanding a thing at the age of of what a better life was win for me. I was having a good life. He inherited a hum. I thought things will get at that age here they were sending money back to you, for europe, keep to your ants, but a few years later it stopped coming. What happened? the sudden must stop going to school, and then I remember weed and have food for a long period of time for a few months and dumb, one of the odds, big family, another. One of the arts was Bassorah fire tapping into the money Mom was standing before my points that were raising us could get to see. Didn't what? How did you survive, how you keep her I recall, being very hungry having to eat rice for breakfast lunch and dinner, and to this day I can't really eat rice, because of that just realising, then all of a sudden, my sister
I were on a plane to new zealand. Okay, so your parents and my mom had found out- and that was when the penny dropped and my my auntie some anti sarah and and and to be near her to tell my mom what was going on yeah and I think at first they were quite afraid of telling mom cause they knew they were going to lose us yeah. Of course, then you in that must have been difficult for you to saying goodbye to them. Yeah, it was was really sad because you know you just didn't realize that you know you were seeing your hearts for the last time, and all of a sudden you on a plane, we know, and that was that the good bye to to some or for me so yeah was tough, incredibly emotional for easter I can hear in your voice. I mean you only eight years old. How do you think those eggs? your if gone into making you who you are today. I think innovators,
make your stronger owl way of life and in the way we know that term. We been brought up as these things happened. You can be angry about it, but dwelling on it is sir, quite poisonous for the soul. many a time for your next disk, tell us about what we're gonna here and why have chosen it today, it's a good one. This is you ought to be in love by Dave. Dobbin said women, animation that run in new zealand and was huge. Am I right yeah. The foot rot flats in any qb in us are into this from the eighties. I think it when it came out and it was about working farm dog, and this song came out when he had four in love. Someone where this huge mean you gotta check out foot raw flat in for me to know taken on in another country, another culture and adapted
then grew to love, new zealand and there's just again something that ebooks and not a great memories. From these you, when I got enough when you ought to be in love, major dobbin featuring our data so monica I see they were a new zealand and back with your family in oakland and then wellington. It must have been quite a culture.
Iraq, leaving a small island to go to a big city. What you remember about that time, yeah it took a while to settle into food being so different. You know, and also you know, having to learn english and I just missed blue sky and ocean arm, even though there was a lot over in new zealand. It just wasn't the same. You know I I missed walking around barefoot, because I just found the ground too cold and yeah. It was a big change for us, and am I right in thinking that you know at that point. Your your first career choice was to be a brain surgeon, yeah. That was a few years later. I am, I think it was more into watching my parents and over the years that were to come,
the accumulation of their struggles and then their sacrifice. I'd always aim to do well in some way that they will have to work so hard anymore after he left school. He began studying for diploma in hospitality management. Would you say you are a good student once I walked into that kitchen? I had never been more focused on anything. I knew exactly where is meant to be in this was my calling an. I would do nothing else, and what was it not that just connected with you. I walked into the kitchen and the chef was piping, chocolate, decorations, the old classic decorations. You did the nun to set, and then you put them on on cakes and what have you I thought it was the most amazing skill. I'd have a say in how beautiful it was an. I wanted to be able to do that on things like the butchery and how quick that he was
doing it. I was so amazed by anything is so different from from the food culture that I'd grown out with you know that was so much more thought and was precise, as opposed to the wimpole cooking, which absolutely love still fight I was just so amazing to me, and I knew it's what I wanted to do when will find out whether epiphany took you next after some more music. This is disc number for monica Y ve chosen it hotel California, by the the eagles. Oh, my word, I absolutely love the song I was in in scorn. I think I must have been life fourteen or fifteen- and I remember this guy aaron getting up during the school assembly and playing this and singing to, and I just thought The most amazing thing poor guy. I think I followed him around for like six months after that, and I wasn't because I had a crush on it- was just to make him play the song for me. I used to hide every time I used to enter the music room,
the eagles and hotel California, monica lessing, listened to as many times as you like on your island, notably russians. Not at all. It's all yours. They are so monograph to you,
aid from college. You got a job as a chef in fine dining restaurant in wellington and its ran that time that you start taking part in culinary computations. So how did it happen white? Why did you start sooner? The chef there was a very competitive chef and stephen asked me. If I'd be interested at trying, my handed a competition- and I said yeah I'd like to give it a go turned out. They now had a bit of a flare for competition I went on to surf, win the regional cohesion and in washington and then one the national competitions, ivo, new zealand and and then that took me abroad to start competing ripley. To new zealand and now she annexes and then in european competitions. I just had this crazy got to learn and army I'd I'd finished at midnight and my boss, who get box of ingredients out they'd all go home and I'd stay there until about two in the morning, knocking up a three course meal
I thrived on it. So in the late nineteenth he traveled around europe and eventually came to london. How did you get your first break once you here, growing up as a young chef, the cookbooks ahead and and they were in the rue brothers and the rue brothers. For me back, then it even how your eyesight gods of of kicking- and I just thinking loud, just be amazing to just me- one day and whilst I was troubling, I sent my cv off too. Of course, the one side to the I wash it. I basically have the top restaurants back then unknown in the nineties, and gavroche were the first to reply and immense stepping back down to a commie position elder elect chef de partie cooking like six seven,
he is already by didn't care. I had my foot in the door of the most amazing kitchen and you know if that's what it meant, then that's what it took. What was it like working in such a prestigious kitchen frightening? I think the fear is you sort of instill in yourself as though you know, there's so competitive in that kitchen. Everyone wants to be better, if not as good as the chef cooking next to them, and in a hour michelle will go on his break. In the afternoon and he'd be shouted out. Make sure you all get out and have your break is like. Yes, chef as soon as he left, it'll sneak back in the kitchen, It was also an amazing experience tools to be able to to learn in that kitchen, quite aunt, no lucky there. I stop butchery by Michel, Regina. I know that he said of that he was tough on you as a mentor, but because he knew you were good yeah in our
Tell me that much later on, would it be nice if he told me that the beginning, I guess he can show favouritism. You know in your was his favorite all along time for disc number. Five. What have you chosen for us? and why disc, a number five is a levy on those by this version is Louie armstrongs, there's been many versions of it, but to me this is so one of my particular favorites. I remember this one subtle fino in in my twenties the excitement off about sir to leave new zealand to travel, and then, of course, you know where it's taken me too, to no wrong clothes and Faz. The magic you votes This is lovely.
rule, where. You guess inside close glows snoopy- strong and levy on rose even today- monica gillespie restaurant kitchens, dude and to be male dominated. Why do you think? That's still the case. Well, I think nowadays you're seeing much more women and in the kitchen definitely him and in my own kitchen, so to speak. I employ a lot of women and is the more of us out there than when I started. I remember there were months when I'd be the only woman in that kitchen, but I say over the years. The mentality has changed its ok to ask for help. We know to lift heavy things at some instead of trying to be as strong as as as the guys you know,
and I know in my kitchen the best way to get the best out of my team is not a shout at them yeah. You got to lose your temper. Something goes wrong and you shout at the situation by in high life, my team happy and you you did not for servers in as like, come on guys. Are we ready we're going to smash us, and in reply yes chef, I love that No, that excitement firing them up as opposed to just constantly below someone telling someone in a good. Why are you doing that to somewhat if you want them to be it? The best have you lebanon in environments that one so positive. Yet I know an indifferent kitchens and and what have you and how did you deal with it? You know I had a lot of anger when I was much younger as well. So if someone got in your way, you told them you gave us good, as he got absolutely and also being a tomboy ahead, and I too,
Well, the brothers used to kick my butt yeah and taught me how to be a bit tougher ethics. I guess I Aina. I knew how to to to cope with guys a bit more and also for me once I had, chef jacket on your fair game. Every one was a chef alms, it's about the jacket notepad, yes as the jacket, but you are angry. Soon he said I'm going to have to ask you about that. It's it's him long straight. I did first year at the gov and and a phone call on this wednesday morning around michelle, giving me the phone and tell me you know, come in the office and then take the phone call. It wasn't a good phone call. My my partner at the time was bose back in new zealand head of passed away overnight, so I had to leave and go home. I remember trash michelle's office, yeah. I think her ear, absolutely destroyed michel's office, so went home back to our house, dealt with a few nolan and everything, and I spent a year. at home, and then I run
Michel and dumb. it's like a thing. He said you know how's it going, and I just said: I'm not doing well chef and he said come back. I just couldn't. In new zealand anymore it was too painful to be there This is so many memories, so I had to leave and unequal wasn't coming back and I wanted to escape, and the gavroche was the perfect escape it's all. I could focus on You know to get through it. It was all I knew, let's take minutes to his emo music monica it's time for your next disc one gonna be here, and why is this going with you today as a my girl by the temptations and tom. You know this was actually his stole his song that I used to sing and play for my daughter since she was born- and I remember a thing when she was about five
we're dancing around the law and then in the kitchen in that came on it. She was like. Oh it's, my song. You know, of course, nowadays and I'll play it for her. She just rolls her eyes at me. The temptations with my girl. So Monica Alessi? Michelle put you forward to be a judge on Masterchef the professionals and you joined the team back in two thousand and nine on screen? You have a reputation for being forthright and formidable but review as can be quite shop, and so
at the beginning, even took two nasty monica that must have been difficult to deal with I just wish to come a sight to my face when they wouldn't, dare you know, Some of the different world is in tat. I am, as was no justice. simple chef, its that amounted to me and then to suddenly end up on television. The with no preparation of what would happen once you you took part on on on show to sort of deal with I know negative feedbacks about who you are and what you do why she has a tattoo on her wrist. You know it was just a lot too for me to to accept feedback. You know being called a so and so and and being harsh and and what have you this was back in the day was a social Yes, I do. I just thought it. You know social media just sort of taken off then for me. Ok, a job, and then perhaps you know spoke too much in the beginning. The why heated as a chef
an industrialized may be the languages sinner got to change a bit more. So what was not just very direct yeah yeah, very direct I dunno, because I was a woman doing it I know, is being called a ramsay really eventually he just learned to deal with it. deal with it. Why just start watching the show was whenever was out it can be panic attack knowing it was happening. You never watched it, nor because it was associated in the beginning with a lot of negative feedback. So much I remember, some nights when the show come on, I jump into bed of my daughter, justice like shut it out. So yeah, eventually you hot and up to her, and you just learn to just ignore it as it's not a real sort of judgment on who I am, as a person is a mother is a chef had seen. People was pretty big keyboard and I got enough enough. It didn't hurt to teachers then, the time on, but it's been
amazing, being a part of that show and its then nurturing side of it in the discovering of new talent, especially it down to light the final, ten or twelve chefs and we're spending more time with them, or it becomes very tough to start losing them. At that point I mean sometimes our judging can take hours trying to make sure Well that you know we we keep our favorites and then we've making the right decision and it and it's very serious. We take it very seriously time for some more music monica. What are we going to your next next has got to be in all my favorite favorite favorite songs on any of my daughter attest this. It's purpose
reigned by prince and purple rain monica gillespie anjou all want on occasion to bust out some serious eguitar too that track. How can you not?
icarus. As I said in my introduction, there are very few women who have reached the heights that you have and and few people of color to. I know that you've said you want to see that change. What needs to happen? Do you think for it to do so? I tend to think that it's because of the backgrounds that we come from in a culturally it. I I come from similar background where you know that the food as as very humble, it's very simple, the world of fine dining, can be frightening if it's not what you grew up in and I think when the doors are just thrown open and you given the confidence to step into that world. You know that any barriers at all and you ve made to feel very welcome in it. In that you belong, then it's longer as frightening and- and I think the interest of food has shifted to be more inclusive, which makes us feel that actually yeah. My style of food is gonna, be or I can give it a go. I remember
we're making for the first time some psalm one food from michelle in the soul but nervous about it, for you know, buy a domain of thing. I did, though, the pork buns from steamed pork buns are basically street food, offering up fresh efficiently loved it absolutely course it it. You own your own restaurant Mary, along with your husband, divvied, he's the head somalia. How did the two of you meet? Were you on pastry? Look- for auction. He was on wine with a wine storage at the pastry window, yeah There's some sellers outside the gab and he Eustace. You know be out there working and I was in the pastry. I used to always knock on the window to say hello and yeah. He said he knew he was in the with me. When I first saw me those that's, why tell me when he fell in love me loveth asylum,
three, the window. He I can help himself and he must have a nice glass of wine pick view at the end of the day I have got to be. One of the perks, of course, is the whole reason I married him so monochrome about to cast you away. What do you think you'll miss at the moment we feel I was stranded on an eye in the I've been in training ready to I use it. Conversation is people yeah well, you'll. Have your disk to keep me company and and will allow you one more before we send you off its disk number. Eight, then what to hear money calculated, and why is it going with you? sk in number, eight is feeling good nina. Some minds might go to church when we're about to go out, for example, are doing something exciting or waking up on a sunday morning. Knowing that going to be the three of us speaks for itself
three, nina simone and feeling good. it's time to send you away to the island. Monica colosseum give me the bible on the complete works of shakespeare. To take with you can take another book of your choice. What would you like? The complete works of oscar wilde? Am I He was helping a friend of mine, clear out her book collection of downsizing and came across it, and I think it's. ten years. I've had it and ass it all. This looks good and she says all take it and I
you think, she's read it, because it is in an immaculate condition. and it says next to my bedside table, because I said you know one day I will get and every now and then maybe pick it up and made up one of the poems in it and then put it back down say ten years later. I still it read it and I'll probably have to be on that desert island to actually finish it. It's time has come you're in for a treat. You could also a luxury item. What would you like luxury item would have to be diving gear by heavy paddy open water certificates? I love, diving and finally, which one of the eight tracks that you've shared with us today? Would you save from the waves terrible thing to have to ask why we leave it to last three little birds. Bob marley's is monica gillespie. Thank you very much for letting us see your desert island discs. Thank you so much
The I hope you enjoyed my conversation with monica, I'm sure she'll finally make some headway with oscar wilde doing her time on the island over the We ve cast many chefs away, including her mental, the rue brothers, ruth rogers, Keith, floyd, raymond blown Delia smith, an agenda lawson. You can hear all of those programmes via the desert island discs website and on BBC sans next time. My guest will be the entomologist george Mcgovern. I do hope. You'll join us the. How did you know that in a million years there be no more total solar eclipses, because the moon is gradually moving away from the earth or the
China's china's cultural revolution, people arrested for bourgeois habits like keeping a pet or where a tight trousers I am melvyn bragg. Those are two of the extraordinary things I've learned while presenting the latest shares in our time each week I ask three expert academic guest to break down and illuminate everything from cornell gunnar due to the nature of humanity from confucius, august augustus from Beowulf. The body can curious about the world around you or your simply want to win your next general knowledge could subscribe no john, when BBC jones,
Transcript generated on 2022-06-05.