Monica Galetti on using inspiration from Samoa and New Zealand

The chef-owner of Mere talks about the unique cuisine influences she brings to London, including the new dishes coming in autumn.

31 July 2019

Monica Galetti is inspired to create new dishes by both her background and her travels to create new dishes. The Samoan-born New Zealander recently returned from Lisbon and has six more trips planned in the next seven months.

“I’ve had several dishes from Samoa like an oka, which is like a raw fish ceviche, on [the menu],” she tells Food Spark. “I use a lot of curries or curry-influenced sauce or seasoning on there, or take a traditional dish and put a twist on it. I don’t know any other Samoan people and chefs in my industry, or any other Pacific Island chefs doing this in the UK.”

This influence will be reflected in her upcoming autumn menu with a classic Samoan treat: a coconut brioche dish.

“Normally, we do a massive tray and feed the whole family with it, but I’ve done individual portions,” she reveals.

Desserts clearly hold a special place on her palate: the dish she is most proud of on the menu is the Hokey Pokey, made with manjari cremeux, salted toffee, honeycomb icecream and a gel created from New Zealand favourite L&P (a brand of sparkling lemonade).

“I think it’s for the lovers of desserts,” she says. “It’s got caramel running through it; the Hokey Pokey ice cream has honeycomb – I make the honeycomb and fold it through the ice cream. It’s just a bit of indulgence.”

Goodbye to molecular gastronomy

Food development at Mere is based on the seasons.

“It’s about looking at what ingredients are coming in and then I start basing it around that,” she explains. “I always try with the main courses to have a white meat, a red meat, a fish, a vegetarian option and then find ingredients that are in season, and I test around that. So now I’m testing for autumn with my head chef and that’s the fun part – the creating.”

As reflected in the broader industry, diners are turning to more plant-based dishes at Mere and Galetti believes “we have seen the turn of molecular food and people just going back to great solid cooking.”

While the restaurant scene is growing – particularly the melting pot of cuisines from around the world landing in London – Galetti is as concerned as everyone about the employment challenges and the shortage of skilled staff facing the food industry as Brexit looms.

Passing judgement

Galetti is arguably best known for her stinging judgements on MasterChef: The Professionals. The chef will continue her career of critiquing as one of the UK judges for the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition, alongside Trinity chef Adam Byatt.

The contest received 2,400 applications from around the world. From among these,135 young chef candidates from 12 regions, representing 50 countries, have been selected, with 15 from the UK & North Europe region set to go head-to-head in November to decide the regional winner. A finale will be held in June 2020.

Representing the UK will be Joshua Wilde of The Coach in Marlow, Rasmas Bundgaard Nielser of Bundgaard Food Consulting and Timothee Martin of The Greenhouse. Each of their signature dishes were initially evaluated based on technical skills, creativity and a personal belief in the transformative power of gastronomy as a device for positive change in society.

Galetti expects modern twists to feature in the young chefs’ cooking in the upcoming competition.

“There is a lot of charring with food, a lot of oils going on, so I think there will quite some colours there,” she says.

“I think it’s a great way to endorse and support our young chefs and to be associated with a part of their training. Even though I’m judging, I like to think that the feedback I give back will guide them also.”

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