Monica Galetti Creates a Tropical Island Menu
New Zealand chef Monica Galetti recently devised a menu for the Maldives restaurant, Aqua. She is interviewed on the island by Jessica Burrell for Vanity Fair.
It’s nearing sunset at Coco Bodu Hithi and Galetti, save for the pristine chef whites, seems very much in holiday mode, Burrell writes. In this Maldivian paradise, like something from the most unlikely realms of Instagram, the sea a Photoshopped shade of turquoise, it’s hard not to be.
Like me, however, Galetti is here for work (though, by our mutual confession, there are worse gigs). She’s devised a menu for one of the island’s five restaurants, Aqua, where we are now sitting, cantilevered over that unbelievable blue. It’s her second residency at Coco Bodu Hithi, which she discovered through her friend and fellow chef, Tom Kitchin.
“He sold it to me with all the photos he had,” Galetti, 44, says. “The first time I did a menu here, I kept it very tropical, but this year I’ve taken more ideas from dishes that I do in the restaurant. It’s nice to showcase it.”
“The restaurant”, a million miles from here on Charlotte Street in London, is Mere, which Galetti opened with her husband David. The menu is classic French with a welcome touch of the South Pacific, a concoction that translates particularly well in Galetti’s six-course island extravaganza. This begins with crab salad in black curry choux and continues in that delicious vein through confit salmon with lemon gel, truffled chicken, and pistachio and raspberry mille-feuille.
Talking of menus, I can’t resist asking the chef for her desert island meal. She responds almost instantly. “For me, it would be a huge seafood platter – I mean everything, shellfish, crayfish, lobsters – with Champagne. Then I would finish with a really rich chocolate cake. That’s my idea of heaven.”
It’s the Asian influences that Galetti finds most appealing about the food here at Coco Bodu Hithi though; located in the North Malé Atoll, the resort’s cuisine is a melting pot of Sri Lankan, Indian and Maldivian flavours.
Of course, when it comes to keeping a cool head, the atmosphere of the island can’t hurt either. She praises its peace and beauty and is evidently delighted at the chance to share it with her husband and daughter.
Galetti has been a judge on the BBC competitive cooking programme MasterChef: The Professionals since 2009 and has presented Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby with Giles Coren since 2017.
Original article by Jessica Burrell, Vanity Fair, January 13, 2020.