This Below Deck job is much harder than you think
When we’re kicked back on the couch, watching an episode of Bravo’s Below Deck, most of us are more likely to fantasize about being a guest on the show, rather than working as part of the crew. Answering to the guests’ every beck and call in between scrubbing toilets and folding laundry, or hauling jet skis in and out of the water each day while keeping the boat’s exterior spic and span, seems like a real grind. Not to mention the daunting task of maneuvering a 180-foot boat while under the watchful eye of TV cameras.
But there is one job on Below Deck that’s even harder than you think, as former cast member Anastasia Surmava knows all too well. Her experience as chef on the reality series seems to have left her reeling. “I think it’s hard for people to grasp how much work it is for one person,” she told Cheat Sheet in August 2020. “By the end, you’re just a broken human being.”
Surmava began her stint on Season 4 of Below Deck Mediterranean as a stewardess, but when the yacht’s chef, Mila Kolomeitseva, was suddenly fired for poor performance, Surmava (who had cooked on smaller boats before) stepped up to the plate. Her insights on what it’s like to cook aboard a luxury yacht left us feeling nothing but sympathy for the many chefs who’ve graced the galley on Below Deck.
Chefs on Below Deck have no help in the kitchen
Day in and day out, the chef’s job on Below Deck is to plan and execute three meals a day for charter guests and the crew, leaving little time for rest. While the deck hands and stewardesses on board typically work in teams of three, the yacht chef works alone with zero back up. Anastasia Surmava revealed to Cheat Sheet yacht chefs on Below Deck often work 16 to 18 hour days. “The huge thing is you don’t have a team,” she said. “… You don’t have your bussers and dishwashers and your pastry chef. You don’t have any support, really.”
Ben Robinson, who was the chef on Season 4 of Below Deck and eventually stepped in to relieve Surmava of her chef duties on Below Deck Med, said on an episode of the series’ After Show, “It’s the hardest job there is. You’re on your own, and you’re in charge of provisioning, budgeting… it’s a tiny little space [and] you have no help.”
Robinson and Surmava were dealt a particularly bad hand in the galley of Below Deck Med when the stovetop quit working. Under normal circumstances, a broken stovetop might be easily repaired. But at sea, help isn’t readily available. “On the show, we have back-to-back charters,” Surmava told Cheat Sheet. “… So the engineer doesn’t have time to completely pull your stovetop apart.”
Problems like this are just one of many chefs on Below Deck have to juggle. And for some, it’s all just too much.
Some Below Deck chefs can't handle the heat
When cheffing for Below Deck‘s high-end clientele and catering to the at-times odd preference sheets (in front of cameras, no less), killer organizational skills are key. Otherwise, rough seas could lie ahead. “It’s really stressful and you have to be so organized and so good with time management,” Anastasia Surmava explained to Cheat Sheet. “… You are one person trying to cook everything to the correct temperature … and then you have to plate it to this high-end status. All that takes a lot of time.”
The stress of the job proved to be too much for chef Kiko Lorran, who was fired from the latest season of Below Deck Med (via The Daily Dish). In an August 2020 Instagram post, Lorran wrote, “I was so tired and … the pressure and the cameras made me lose my mind.” His successor, chef Tom Checketts, didn’t fair much better either. According to Vulture, Checketts had quite a few stress-induced meltdowns in the galley. Given what we know about the job now, this may not seem all that surprising — until you understand that Checketts previously worked under Gordon Ramsay, per Screen Rant.
If anything would prepare a chef for a high-pressure gig like Below Deck, it would be time spent answering to the perpetually-ticked-off Ramsay, right? Thankfully, Checketts ultimately proved he could handle the heat of this intensely difficult job and still managed to finished out the season. We can only hope future Below Deck chefs can do the same.
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