Monica Galetti: “It didn’t feel right filming the next generation of chefs when my own team was struggling”

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Mere chef Monica Galetti on returning to Masterchef: The Professionals

Related tags Monica Galetti MasterChef: The Professionals Mere Fine dining

The Masterchef: The Professionals judge on returning to the show after taking a year out and the challenges at her Fitzrovia restaurant Mayfair.

Why did you take a step back from Masterchef: The Professionals?

Everything came to a head. My team at Mere (Galetti's Fitzrovia fine dining restaurant) needed me and my family needed me. It came to the point that the filming was about to happen and I just could not fit it all in. I had to put my business and family first. It didn’t feel right filming the next generation of chefs when my own team was struggling. 

You said the kitchen team at Mere had taken a battering during Covid... 

Yes. We lost a lot of staff due to the pandemic and also Brexit. My head chef who had been with me since launch also got married and moved back to Italy. It’s hard to replace that sort of talent. At one point we were using a lot of agency chefs, which is very expensive. Things are better now staff wise. The kitchen is now being led by our former sous chef Yuri Scarcia and I've been able to spend a lot of time with him this past year. The transition from being a chef to being a chef and a manager is not an easy one. He’s doing a great job. 

You start filming later this month. Are you excited to return? 

Yes very much so. The crew is like a family behind the scenes, I’ve known some of them for 15 years now. It was hard to take the year out and I’m really grateful that Anna (Haugh) was able to step in and hold the fort while I was away. But it is a gruelling schedule. Masterchef: The Professionals takes place over a three-month period with up to five long filming days per week. Most of the time, I head to Mere after we finish for the day. 

That skills test looks stressful. What would your advice be to chefs? 

Don’t over think it and listen to the instructions carefully. People make silly mistakes. There’s a lot of pressure because it’s usually the first time they have ever been filmed cooking. It’s hard to relax when there are five cameras watching your every move, but eventually the contestants forget about them. 

What’s business like at Mere? 

Charlotte Street feels busy but like everyone else we’re being hit by the cost of living crisis. People are eating out less. Lunch is particularly tough at the moment. The strikes either side of Christmas did not help either. On top of all this costs are going up. Vegetables are now as expensive as proteins in some cases. We’re also paying £15,000 more per month for electricity than we were last year. My husband David (with whom Galetti co-runs Mere) and I are having to dissect every plate of food and work out all the salaries and overheads that come out of it. 

If you could click your fingers and solve a single industry which one would you choose?

The chef shortage. Good chefs are so hard to come by now. People progressing is a great thing but in this climate it’s very difficult to lose staff that you have trained up to other chefs. 

What’s the solution? 

We need to scream and shout about the positive side of hospitality. There’s still a perception that kitchens are violent places where people are treated unfairly. But things have changed. TV shows like Masterchef: The Professionals show that it’s possible to push people while also being nurturing. There’s no need to destroy people, you can get more out of chefs by being supportive. Hospitality is now one of the most rewarding careers you can have. There are so many different opportunities, not least travel. 

We hear you recently became a tourism ambassador for Samoa. What will that involve? 

I’m not sure yet. I’m certainly overdue a trip back there I miss my culture a lot. I’m a very proud Samoan so it’s a real honour to be given the chance to promote it. My dad is very proud. 

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