Chef Q&A: Bravo's Below Deck Chef Ben Robinson Dishes on Strange Yacht Requests
Below Deck's Ben Robinson.
Photo by Paul Drinkwater/Bravo
Ben Robinson is best-known as the snarky, English chef on Bravo's Below Deck. A different chef started out the current season, but it was Robinson who saved the day by joining his fellow yachties on the Eros at the request of ship's captain, Lee Rosbach, to finish out the charter trip.
Throughout the run of the reality show that features the inner workings of a megayacht and its crew, Robinson's dry wit and culinary skills manage to delight guests and diffuse more than one tense situation involving fellow crew members.
Robinson, however, is much more than just a chef on a big boat. The 33-year-old Oxford, England, native apprenticed at the three-Michelin-starred eatery the Fat Duck and worked under master chefs in Florence, Italy, before taking to the sea for the past decade.
The chef, who resides in Fort Lauderdale between charters, has recently become a certified health coach, specializing in helping people achieve their goals in battling cancer, addiction, and weight loss. His chefbenrobinson.com site features some of the chef's favorite recipes, along with tips on how to live a healthier life.
We asked Robinson what it's like to work on a yacht, how to eat healthy on vacation, and why all those rich yacht charter guests seem to like quesadilla.
New Times: What is the main difference between being a chef on a yacht or on land?
Ben Robinson: The yacht presents so many more challenges. On land, our location does not move every few days and we have an existing rapport with a great company. [On the yacht], quite often we have to provision in a different island and work with unfamiliar provisioners, in an unfamiliar language. The workload is also relentless on yachts. Sometimes I clock 21 hours a day with very little or no assistance. This seldom happens on land.
How did you start your career onboard yachts?
Having spent my childhood summers in Cape Cod, I learned of these large private yachts. I was always intrigued by them, so one day I decided to give it a shot.
What is the most insane request you've ever had?
Sea cucumber ovaries.
You are now a certified health coach. How did your career path change?
I see health as the future. We are going through a great transition at the moment. I would like to be a part of that change. I also have a catering company based in Florida. I really enjoy putting a solid team together and going above and beyond the clients' expectations. Whether it be a small intimate dinner between friends or a massive 60th birthday, I have found my passion.
What tips do you have for staying healthy on vacation while still being decadent?
A lot of people do let their diets slide during a vacation, which is a very natural response. My advice would be to stay hydrated, bring daily vitamins, and watch out for the overloading of carbs.
Looks like you and Kate [Chastain, chief steward] got close this season. What's up with you and Kate?
We are just friends and colleagues.
What is it with rich yacht charter guests and quesadillas? Seems like you're always making them!
Quesadillas are an awesome late-night snack, especially when loaded with guacamole and spicy salsa. Can you blame them?
When do you know it's going to be a good or bad charter, and how do you fix things if they go south?
The preference sheets are a really good sign, but you can’t judge a book by its cover. I feel the initial meet and greet tells me so much. I have a knack for reading guests, having spent many years developing that skill.
I think the direct communication between myself and the guests tends to fix the problems. Sometimes there can be a communication problem with the stewardesses, but I can really get inside the guests heads and decipher appropriate culinary options. I also feel if the guests have a face and personality behind the food operation, they tend to be less bratty and a little more willing to work with you, as opposed to against you.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to South Florida dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.