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So you're a Kiwi then?
Yeah, I'm from Lake Tekapo, about three hours south of Christchurch. I left school very early and started cooking [training] at a college in Timaru. I went over to Australia, and then back to New Zealand, worked down in Arrowtown with Pete [Gawron] at Saffron. Then the US for a little bit, then back to Australia. I hopped on a yacht that does the Kimberley, up the top of Western Australia. That was my first taste of yachting, then I found out about the white boats and the superyachts over in Europe. I've been doing that for the last six years.
How did you end up on Below Deck?
I talked to one of the casting people about three years ago when I was making tracks in yachting. I got approached by her. My understanding was that it kind of ruins your ticket for any further career in yachting, as the show's a little bit frowned upon in the professional realm. So I wasn't really willing to do that just then. Then I was finishing up on a boat last year, I got a phone call from the casting person and I was like "f*** it", so I just went ahead and did [an interview]. She loved me, and then you kind of go through levels [of casting].
Why do you think drama flairs up so easily on this show?
Well, I mean, you chuck eight people on to a boat, and you've got guests coming on in 24 hours. Getting to know each other, chuck a little bit of vodka and Thailand energy and heat in there, I think you're gonna have a wicked show aren't you?
Would you say there's more drama on Below Deck than there is on a regular superyacht job?
110 per cent for sure. I didn't realise how much drama there was going to be. It gets quite intense quite quickly.
The first few episodes have aired in the States — thoughts?
Yeah. They've been good and stuff. I'm coming off a little bit cocky, I was a bit like "What?!". But I can kind of see how it comes off [that way]. I've worked on quite professional boats previous to jumping on this, and the level of service, what I expect, isn't really there. And it just gets a bit frustrating really.
There's a lot of Kiwis in the superyacht world right?
Definitely more than I thought there was gonna be. A lot of South Africans as well. A lot come from Auckland, obviously with the marina and stuff there. I was the only boy from Canterbury. I didn't see anyone from Christchurch.
What's the hardest part of being a superyacht chef?
Probably the cuisines because you've got to cater for everything. But I love it at the same time. I never see myself going back to a restaurant to do that kind of mundane, same dish after same dish.
What's the most extreme request you've seen from a client?
The chief stew[ardess] had to order white roses from the States into the Bahamas. The girl wanted the whole yacht covered in roses. Upwards of US$14,000 [about $22,000] worth of roses. And then the next day, she wanted them all gone. She was like "Just get them off the boat." F***. Fourteen grand.
In episode three you say that your great-great-great-grandfather was a chef on the Titanic. Is that true?
[Laughs]. No. I was just bullshitting with Kate. She was like, "Is that true?" and I was like "Yeah, yeah." That's just my humour.
What can you tease for the rest of the season?
There's still a lot of bumps in the road. I muck up a few times. I don't know what they've put in and what they've [left] out. There's just so much material. They're really good at getting it all. I hope the Kiwi fans like the sarcasm and the trolling that I've got. Because the American fans aren't liking it so much right now.
Are you back working a regular yacht season now?
I'm kind of looking at other things now. I'm about to launch my YouTube channel, Small Town Cook, which is a cooking channel for basic cooks. I've been staying away from the yachts, but the cash flow is getting quite low, so I think I'll probably head over to Europe next month.
Below Deck 101
This popular reality series chronicles the drama-filled lives of the people who work on mega-yacht Valor catering to a variety of wealthy clients across a series of three-day luxury charters. The new season, the seventh, takes place in Thailand. The only constants year to year are the gently ornery Captain Lee Rosbach and chief stewardess Kate Chastain, master of the silent withering stare. The four-person deck crew, three-person stew crew, and the chef largely switch out each season. They all work hard, and relish letting off steam at the end of each charter. The meals play a large role in the luxury experience, so the chef is often at the centre of the drama.