With all the fights about Chef Leon's pedigree as a charter chef on Below Deck , I've been wondering — what is of a charter chef, really? And what separates the job of "charter chef" from a regular restaurant chef? Turns out, there are some major differences. First and foremost, it's that even though the charter chef is an important member of the crew, they're not the boss, and everything doesn't revolve around the kitchen on the ship. The deck crew and stewards/stewardesses are just as important as the chef, and no one department has more authority than the other.
But Below Deck, even though it does show a slice of the real yachting industry, isn't an example of the average gig, because of both the cameras and the shortness of the charter season — being a charter chef is usually more of an endurance sport. According to a helpful post on Cheftalk, a charter chef can be expected to work for up to five months, and Chef Patrick, the author, even adds that "There is a very large turnover in first year yacht Chefs primarily because they are not prepared mentally for the challenges." So it's not easy to deal with the endurance of working on a boat — and Chef Patrick says you have to be "willing to perform routine seamanship duties in addition to cooking (like dropping the anchor, helping to dock the boat, manning the helm, washing the boat, etc)."
I'm sure some of Kate's dislike for Chef Leon also stems from his personality, not just his misunderstanding of the role of charter chef. He seems to be very neat and persnickety for a roommate, and the whole thing with hosing down the shower would have made me roll my eyes too. And another thing — can you imagine Rocky, who hopes to be a charter chef one day, dealing with all of these rules and requirements? Because in addition to the regular duties of a charter chef, the Below Deck chef has lots of other things they need to remember.
You Will Be Accused Of Putting Something Weird In Your Food
Just like Ben with the piece of champagne plastic and Leon with the hair, charter guests will be dying to send something back in a dramatic fashion. Just go with it, apologize, and remind them that you know what you're doing.
At Least 1 Guest Will Only Eat Ketchup
Even though these are wealthy people who are supposedly very fancy, there's always one guest who shows up with the palate of a very picky third grader, and won't so much as touch a poached egg. Or you could wind up with guests who have strict dietary restrictions, posing another challenge.
There's No Menu — So The Guests Depend Completely On You
Since every night is a new menu, the guests will often ask the chef to make new things, or make lists of ingredients they can and cannot use, and it's all up to one person — guests can't just pop into the kitchen to fry themselves a little extra bacon.
You May Have To Adhere To A Tight Schedule
But that's only if Dean Slover is going to be your guest, so hopefully you can get away with serving dinner at 8:45 instead of 8:30.
The Kitchen Is Tiny
Kate and Amy talk about how huge the galley on Eros is, but to me it looks like a matchbox. While restaurant kitchens are cramped too, it's because there's so many different people, foods, and gadgets. The Eros kitchen, on the other hand, has to remain perfectly organized at all time because of its limited space.
There's Tons Of Improvisation
Trips to the store are few and far between while out on charter, and even when shopping supplies can be limited in places like small Caribbean islands.
A New Menu Must Be Prepared Every Night
As Kate points out, a restaurant chef doesn't need to created a new menus every night, while on a charter yacht, the guests are going to expect different meals. Making the same thing over and over isn't going to fly with finicky charter guests.
Dealing With The Chief Stew Is Not Easy
There's something about yacht life that just makes chief stews and charter chefs not get along. Maybe it's a phenomenon unique to Below Deck, or maybe it's just the natural level of conflict between two powerful people on the ship. But if you're going to be the charter chef on Eros, or any other Below Deck vessel, there's a good chance you'll be navigating rocky waters with the chief stew.
Image: Virginia Sherwood/Bravo