Kiwi chef: Moving from Samoa to NZ was the saddest time of my life

Having worked as senior sous chef at London culinary institution Le Gavroche since 1999, Monica Galetti is one of the country's greatest culinary exports. She reveals her answers to some of the most probing questions.
Monica Galetti, Samoan-born Kiwi chef who works in the UK.
Monica Galetti, Samoan-born Kiwi chef who works in the UK.

The prized possession you value above all others: Family photos. I was brought up in Western Samoa and then New Zealand and have very few photos from childhood, so those that remain are precious.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again: A white gold pendant in the shape of a chilli, which was a birthday present from a friend in 2003. It broke at work, so I wrapped it in clingfilm and put it in my pocket, but I must have somehow thrown it away.

The figure from history for whom you'd most like to buy a pie and a pint: King George VI. I became intrigued by him after watching The King's Speech. I'd love to meet him at that pivotal time in his life.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise: Drivers who indicate randomly. You never know what someone who does that will do next.

The temptation you wish you could resist: Cake in all its forms. Walnut and ginger is one of my favourites.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance: Uncle Tom's Cabin, the 19th- century anti-slavery novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It's so moving how Tom never loses his faith in humanity.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day: I'd follow the Spanish chef Ferran Adrià, who created El Bulli, around. He's one of the best chefs in the world.

The film you can watch time and time again: Forrest Gump. I love its humour. When I want someone to work faster in the kitchen, I say, 'Run, Forrest. Run!'

The person who has influenced you most: Michel Roux Jr, my boss at restaurant Le Gavroche, which has two Michelin stars. He taught me yelling at people doesn't get results

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child: Make sure you travel a lot before you settle down. Seeing the world feeds your imagination.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity: Scuba diving. I really love watching the fish and coral. It's so peaceful.

The biggest regret you wish you could amend: Letting my husband David [head sommelier at Le Gavroche] drive our new Mercedes ML first! When it was my turn he got annoyed because I had to adjust the seat. That started an argument and I vowed never to drive it again.

The unending quest that drives you on: To keep learning new tricks in my industry. The day you stop learning is the day you hang up your apron.

The poem that touches your soul: Comme Un Chef (Like A Chef), by a French judge at the Bocuse d'Or, the World Cooking Championships in 1997, which I competed in. He read it out and it was very inspiring. It really captured the passion of our craft.

The song that means most to you: When We Dance by Sting. It's very romantic and it was played for our first dance at our wedding in 2004.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase: That I'm stern and grumpy! I'm always smiling when we make MasterChef, but it gets edited out! People meet me and say, 'You're much nicer in real life!'

The event that altered the course of your life and character: Coming to England on holiday in 1997. I got a glimpse of London life and loved it so I went home, saved up, and came back a few years later. I've been here ever since.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it: I'd cook a banquet in the State rooms at Buckingham Palace for friends and family, then leave without clearing up!

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions: I'd watch the sunrise at Savaii Island in Western Samoa with David and our daughter Anais, who's seven. I'd eat local fruit and drink from the freshest coconut. After that I'd take pictures of the salt flats at Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. We'd have a picnic lunch - prepared by the best chef in South America - at Machu Picchu in Peru. I'd spend the afternoon relaxing in the hot springs in Turkey, then have a glass of Krug champagne with David before ending the day at Riomaggiore in northern Italy. We'd be joined by all my family from New Zealand and then the Italian chef Massimo Bottura would cook us one of his wacky pasta dishes. We'd see out the day gazing at the view while drinking Meursault.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever: Anais's birth. She's brought a sense of balance to my life.

The saddest time that shook your world: Moving from Samoa to New Zealand. I was raised in Samoa by two aunties while my mum worked in Auckland. I joined her when I was seven and I remember arriving there in winter. I was so homesick.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you: For David and I to open our own restaurant.

The philosophy that underpins your life: The show must go on.

The order of service at your funeral: I'd want something short and simple, followed by a party to celebrate my life. I will leave a menu of fantastic food and great wine.

The way you want to be remembered: As a loving wife, mother and friend. And as someone who smiled a lot!

- Daily Mail

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