Recommended second chance
Michel Roux Jr & Monica Galetti
MasterChef: The Professionals
TV’s toughest cookery competition returns, with 40 working chefs lining up to prove they can take the heat in the MasterChef kitchen. As ever, alongside Gregg Wallace, the fearsome Michel Roux Jr and his sous chef Monica Galetti are overseeing the action…
Michel, have you ever had to communicate to one of the contestants that they really shouldn’t be a chef — they’re in the wrong business?
Michel Roux Jr Yeah, on the first series of Professionals there were quite a few, actually, where I did have to say, ‘Are you sure you’re in this business for the right reasons? Are you sure you want to be a chef? Have you ever thought about something else?’ Not all of those conversations were screened, but I certainly did say them. I don’t like having to say that kind of stuff, but sometimes you think, ‘My God!’
What tend to be the chefs’ blind spots? They often seem to struggle on patisserie…
Michel Roux Jr Patisserie’s always a subject that can be a problem, especially with younger chefs who haven’t had the time to work on the dessert section or pastry area. Butchery is another. Butchery skills…
Monica Galett Fish too…
Michel Roux Jr Filleting skills seem to have gone, because a lot of restaurants…
Monica Galett Get it all pre-done.
Michel Roux Jr One of the biggest costs in restaurants and hotels is staff, so if you can eliminate a couple of staff by buying in your lamb chops and buying in your portioned-sized fish, then economically bosses look at it that way. So, it is unfortunate, but a lot of qualified chefs now have not done butchery work or simple preparation of fish.
Are you still in contact with previous winners?
Michel Roux Jr Yes, very much so, and I make a point to keep in contact with all of the winners, all of the finalists in general and quite a few of the last round ones as well. I think it’s important to follow up and keep in contact. Encourage them, help them.
Monica Galett You spend so much time with them in the show, so you do get to know them.
Michel Roux Jr I saw [last year’s champ] Ash Mair on Sunday.
How’s he doing?
Michel Roux Jr He’s brilliant! His cookery book’s coming out. I did the intro — it’s a fantastic book! A beautiful book. He’s such a great chef, great chef.
Michel, you still work in your restaurant, Le Gavroche. How important is it for ‘celebrity’ chefs to do that?
Michel Roux Jr Very important. I’m not there every day — no, I’d be lying. But I’m there most days. And I will get on my chef whites and I’ll greet all our guests and I’ll go around and put my finger in the sauce. If I see anything which I don’t like, I’m not afraid of saying so.
Do you do it because you feel you have to, or you want to?
Michel Roux Jr I love it!
Monica Galett You can’t keep him out of there!
Would you say some chefs can just get a bit jaded?
Michel Roux Jr Possibly. What I always say is if the alarm goes off in the morning and you think to yourself, ‘Why the hell am I doing this?’ then get out of it. I wake up before the alarm and I think, ‘Yeah, great — another day’.
Monica, has it been tough working as a chef, and also being a mum?
Monica Galett I took nine months out when I had my daughter, and then I came back part-time with Michel. It was a balancing act but it became more so as she grew up. It was a learning thing for me. Never been a mother before and I thought, stupidly, that the older she got, the easier it became! Yes, she can walk now and she can feed herself…
Michel Roux Jr If only it was that easy!
Monica Galett Stupidly, that’s what I thought. I assumed when she was getting older I could go straight back, but I’ve actually had to cut back even more because she’s now at the stage where she needs after-school activities, homework and so on.
How old is she now?
Monica Galett She’s six. And, boy, does she get a lot of homework! So I’ve had to cut back on my hours. We could easily afford a nanny, but I’m very passionate about raising my child. I’d like her to grow up to be a young woman who I raised. And I think a part of that was watching Giselle, Michel’s wife, with their daughter Emily. Seeing how she was raised. For me, I grew up with a mum who worked all the time, and so I missed that, but I want to be able to give it to my daughter. And luckily Michel lets me go and play at Le Gavroche a couple of days a week — come in and mess about and yell at a few boys who are misbehaving in the kitchen!
BBC2 starts Monday