Monica Galetti sets record straight on ‘urgent’ reason for MasterChef absence

Monica Galetti explains her decision to break from Masterchef

Masterchef judge Monica Galetti admitted she felt compelled to take a break from the show after her 15-year-old nephew was handed a “life sentence” in New Zealand – a life-threatening tumour.

Initially given just “three months” to live, Otis was desperately ill – and Monica knew she had to travel to see her family in “urgent and shocking circumstances”.

The Samoa-born, NZ-raised culinary great explained: “There was a gala fundraiser for Otis in New Zealand in what would have been the first week of filming for MasterChef.

“My family needed my support to sell as many tickets as possible,” she reasoned, making a decision that would see her temporarily replaced by Anna Haugh.

Speaking in a new interview with the Radio Times, Monica revealed that it’s been over a year since her “miracle boy” nephew was given the chilling prognosis of three months to live – and that, thankfully, he is “still with us”.

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Her triumphant return to Masterchef is now accompanied by a sense of focus and purpose, and she’s vowed that she’s highly unlikely to leave a second time.

“Unless I’m pushed into a corner or things come to a head, I’m not going to step back again,” Monica insisted.

“It’s a part of my life and something I love doing.”

She’s also revealed that after her visit to see family in New Zealand, she’s learnt to achieve “balance” in her life and only to take on projects that “really matter”.

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Seeing her nephew, who is the same age as her daughter Anais, struggle with his desmoplastic small round cell tumour – a type of cancerous growth centred around the soft tissue of the abdomen and pelvis – taught her how precious life is.

Now she is determined only to fill it with tasks that are meaningful, including Masterchef: The Professionals, her restaurant Mere, and of course her relationship with her husband, daughter, nephew and wider family.

“I realised I didn’t have to say ‘yes’ to everything. Instead, I can put my energy only into things that I well and truly believe in, into things that make me happy,” she explained.

Monica has clearly come a long way since she first auditioned as a Masterchef judge back in 2009 – a moment which made her feel “so sick” with nerves.

Prior to that gig, she’d been working as a sous chef at a renowned Michelin-starred restaurant, London’s Le Gavroche – but that hadn’t eased her anxiety.

“I didn’t even laugh at any of Gregg Wallace’s jokes!” she exclaimed, after being put forward by her boss Michel Roux Jr.

She ended up getting the job and becoming the first female sous chef that the restaurant had ever had – and the rest of her career is public history.

The full interview runs in this week’s Radio Times, out now.

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