As MasterChef: The Professionals returns for its ninth series, Samoan Kiwi judge Monica Galetti says she won't be falling for gimmicks…
Marcus Wareing, Monica Galetti and Greg Wallace return to BBC2 on Tuesday as a new hunt for Britain's best professional chef begins on MasterChef: The Professionals.
Here, judge Monica talks nerves, disagreements and some very strange food combinations...
What do you always look forward to about judging MasterChef: The Professionals, alongside Marcus and Gregg? "I'm always thrilled to discover some great chefs – watching their journey throughout the competition and how they change and develop, it's really exciting to see. I'm always disappointed when they're not so great at the beginning – but if you see a chef who you know can improve, you want to hold onto them for a bit longer because you're hoping to get that bit extra out of them. And when you do it's magic!"
Monica Galetti with her fellow judges on MasterChef: The Professionals, Marcus Wareing and Gregg Wallace
This show attracts pro chefs all with different levels of experience. Do you expect more from the head chefs than from the young, inexperienced chefs taking part? "Not necessarily. It depends where these head chefs have come from – someone will say they're a head chef, but there's only two of them working in their kitchen! Meanwhile, the young chefs are not afraid of taking risks, so they're exciting. But they also need that backbone of classic training before they can start experimenting."
Is there a lot at stake for these professional chefs? "Absolutely. These are not amateurs who have another job on the side; this is their bread and butter, so if they mess up or fail they really do embarrass themselves. We really feel for them when that happens."
For the dreaded Skills Test in the first episode, you ask the chefs to make a pistachio frangipane tart. Why is this ideal for a Skills Test? "Frangipane is very easy to make, but pastry is a skill that lots of chefs tend to take for granted or shy away from. What we want to see in the Skills Test are chefs who can think on their feet and really focus. We know they're nervous, but it's just about being able to deliver something in that first round – it tells us who they are and what they're able to do."
At the end of each heat, only three chefs go through to the next round. Do yourself, Marcus and Gregg ever have disagreements about who should stay? "We only disagree when we feel passionate about who should stay – and it gets more difficult when we're down to our highest calibre chefs. If there is ever any disagreement, we just have to talk it through – but we never fall out!"
Monica says she keeps things friendly with Michelin-starred chef, Marcus Wareing
What has really impressed you this series? And what really annoys you? "It's been great to see chefs just cooking properly. There's always one bench of ingredients that makes you raise your eyebrows – last year we kept getting honeycomb… honeycomb on fish, honeycomb on duck. We were confused. These chefs need to remember that we've been around for a while and we've seen a lot of stuff out there, so don't try to wow us with things we know won't work!"
As the series progresses, the chefs visits professional kitchens in the UK and abroad. What do they gain from this? "This show really pushes these chefs to their limit. We have some chefs who have never had the opportunity in their careers to set foot in a Michelin-starred kitchen, so it's exciting when we get to send them out, because that's where the learning starts to grow at a rapid rate. It opens their world to something they've never experienced before."
We've talked about the contestants being nervous – but do you get nervous as a judge on the show? "I was very nervous when I first started working on the show because I had no intention of doing television in the beginning. The thing about TV is always having to be 'on', which takes a lot of energy rather than being left alone chopping in your corner. As a judge, I'm not about making good TV - I'm all about just focusing on the chef that's in the jacket!"
Monica reckons fellow judge Gregg Wallace can eat. A. LOT!
Finally, after a long day filming the show, what do you like to eat at home? "Nothing – we're so full! I realised pretty quickly that if I let Marcus do all the talking, then I can just keep eating if I really like something. Gregg will finish everything! You feel sick watching him eat all the time. If I have anything when I get home it will be half a bottle of red wine!"
MasterChef: The Professionals starts Tuesday November 8 at 8pm on BBC2.
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