Rob Rinder has described feeling “super nervous” at meeting Monica Galetti ahead of co-hosting the new series of Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond The Lobby.
The former barrister, 45, replaced Giles Coren on the fifth season of the hit BBC programme, alongside original presenter Galetti, going behind the scenes to explore the day-to-day running of extraordinary hotels as they work alongside staff.
As a fan of the programme, Rinder described experiencing an “instant connection” with Galetti ahead of filming the series which he said developed into something “really lovely”.
“To meet Monica is to be in the presence of somebody truly unique…(I felt) a sense of delicious, bewildered awe of somebody that has achieved so much and yet remains so deeply and profoundly humble and engaged,” he said.
“I’ve been in front of High Court judges and dealt with extremely sensitive cases involving international issues relating to money laundering, various tribunals, as you can imagine some of them with far-reaching and potentially catastrophic consequences, but that is nothing until you walk into a room with Monica Galetti and one of the things they might ask you to do is to make tea and serve it to her.
“That’s a hand-shaking moment.”
Rinder, who rose to fame as the formidable Judge Rinder on his eponymous ITV reality courtroom show, described former MasterChef judge Galetti as a “rare breed” of having both a charismatic quality and a kindness to her.
He said: “She’s got an effortlessness that some people have…she instantly put me at my ease, and we just had this conversation and sometimes you get that delicious alchemy where, for reasons which are impossible to describe, you just end up connecting – and that seemed to happen here.
“I made her a cup of tea and I was like ‘I definitely want to come on this journey with you’ and so they let me and that was great.”
Rinder said one of the first scenes he filmed with Galetti was at the five-star Glenapp Castle in Scotland with the hotel’s in-house florist.
He said: “Within minutes, almost like watching some sort of brand of magic, Monica had put together the most exquisite display for the hotel I think the florist had ever seen.
“Some people don’t just have a natural gift for food or for the thing they’re trained in, but also this quality where they’re able to invent and show us beauty and bloody hell does she have that.”
Rinder also said he received a good luck message ahead of his hosting debut from British journalist Coren, who had presented the BBC Two programme alongside Galetti since its launch in 2017.
“He was lovely to me…He was just a total mensch. He just wished me luck and said ‘I hope you have a wonderful time’. I always take people based upon my experiences and for him to have done that I think represented something super kind and I will take that with me,” he said.
He continued: “Giles was so superb at it and his beautiful chemistry with Monica as well, but for me what I loved was the things that I think television can do at its very best, gives you all of that wonderful, delicious escapism into a world imagined in perhaps rainy England, that you might not have the gift or privilege to see.
“Also the communities and stories of the people who work there…it’s really always been about telling those stories, the human stories, the communities that make up businesses or cultures or communities, and that’s why I loved it so much.”
Rinder agreed the series had a profound impact on him, describing the conversations he had along the way with staff and locals as “some of the most beautiful”.
“If you sit down long enough, and you’re open-minded enough, and you’ve got, as my mum says ‘two ears and one gob’, honestly you get some of the best stories you’ve ever heard,” he said.
The broadcaster said there are “deeper questions” at the heart of the series, including the climate crisis, colonial heritage and conflict among communities, but at its heart it is “really fun”.
He said: “Television can just be escapism, we are living in a world at the moment which is really challenging…sometimes it’s useful to gift us the possibility of living within our imagination elsewhere – and that’s what TV can do at its best.
“But it also can help us give really interesting, positive examples and those are not always present.
“If you look at some of the climate change issues, just to see a business modelling how it’s possible for humankind to come up with a solution, it’s not I’m sure a perfect one, but to be solution-focused as opposed to catastrophe-focused is really a good thing.”
The first episode of the programme will see the pair exploring Sir Richard Branson’s hotel Kasbah Tamadot in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.
Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond The Lobby airs on August 6 at 8pm on BBC Two and iPlayer.
Published: by Radio NewsHub