This long-running culinary competition may be in what are the difficult teenage years for humans, but in telly terms, it’s just getting into its stride.
This 16th season sees the welcome return of Monica Galetti to the judging panel, after she took a well-earned year off.
Fans of the Samoan-born New Zealand chef were thrilled when she posted the news on social media, writing: “A year ago I made the tough call to take a break from Masterchef: The Professionals. I’m so grateful for everyone’s support that allowed me time out to get back on top of managing business and family commitments.
“I’m super thrilled to see what new talent is out there & to be back with my buddies… see you there!”
Monica later revealed that, during her break from the show, she sought help from a therapist to help her deal with everything that was going on in her life.
“That was one of the best things I did,” she said.
Considering everything Monica has achieved so far in her career, it’s not surprising she needed some time out.
Born in American Samoa, she moved to Auckland in New Zealand when she was eight. After completing her studies in the 1990s, she landed a job at Timothy’s restaurant. The eagle-eyed owner promptly entered Monica in culinary competitions in Australia, America and Europe, and she soon began looking for a job in London.
Her first offer came from none other than Michel Roux Jr, who offered her the role of first commis at his two-Michelin-starred restaurant Le Gavroche.
Despite it being a demotion, Monica took the job and swiftly rose through the restaurant’s ranks to become its first-ever female senior sous-chef, a position she held until 2015.
In 2009, Monica made her debut on MasterChef: The Professionals, and in 2017, opened a new London restaurant called Mere, with her sommelier husband David.
The same year, she began co-presenting the globetrotting show Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby, first with Giles Coren and currently with Rob Rinder.
Irish chef Anna Haugh did a great job holding the fort last year, but Monica is back with a bang for 2023.
The series begins as the first two chefs face Monica’s Skills Test: 20 minutes to prepare and cook a fillet of brill and serve it with a turnip garnish and a coconut sauce.
Next, Marcus Wareing sets a Skills Test for the next two hopefuls: to poach and pan-fry a portion of guinea fowl, make a sherry hollandaise and serve it with a bitter salad, before serving up the two-course Signature Menu follows.
The second episode of the week sees Skills Tests involving cooking spiced monkfish served with polenta and a chili butter sauce, and caramelized bananas, coconut cream, a chocolate sauce and a quick banana ice cream.
Finally, in the first quarter-final of the competition, the chefs must think on their feet in an Invention Test showcasing nuts, before facing the daunting task of cooking for three of the UK’s most discerning restaurant critics, Jay Rayner, Leyla Kazim and Tracey MacLeod.