‘Below Deck’ exclusive: Chef Ben Robinson on season 2, clientele, Bravo’s food empire

Ben Robinson -Before Tuesday night’s Bravo premiere of “Below Deck” season 2 (9:00 p.m. Eastern), we are back with one more exclusive interview to follow up our chat with Captain Lee Rosbach on Monday: An interview with Ben Robinson. This is his second year aboard the yachting-themed series, as he tries to handle the stresses of the ship and the crew while coming up with some inspired cuisine in the process.

As a fanatic of most Bravo culinary competitions (and to a certain extent food shows in general), Ben’s role on the series is something that interests us. While being a chef on dry land can be difficult enough, there are also so many different challenges that presumably come with doing it at sea, and with a very specific clientele in mind. These were things we were interested in finding out from Ben when we spoke with him via email this week.

CarterMatt – There’s a big scene in the premiere where you make a super-expensive trip to the grocery store for supplies. How much menu planning do you typically have to do before embarking on these trips?

Ben Robinson – The first provisioning trip of the season will always be the largest, simply because at this point you are giving yourself a foundation of products which will be used throughout the season. Menu planning is never a bad idea, it’s always good to have an archive of familiar systems in place.

However, you really never know your clientele, so I don’t really do it until the preference sheets come through; even then I reserve creative flexibility.

What appeals to you about being a part of a ship like Ohana, and cooking in such a different environment than what we associate with the standard chef?

I love being on the front line and being victim to absolutely anything that comes through the galley door. I’m an absolute glutton for punishment and I love dealing with the moment and multiple problem solving, It’s here I feel alive.

How different is cooking for the clientele at sea? Are their expectations typically higher since they all have this vacation ‘anything I want’ mentality?

I actually think you answered your own question. Of course its harder, however, some clients are harder than others.

This season, you’re going into it with a year of experience on TV. Does that prepare you better for some of the drama that will inevitably ensue?

Yes, I do think I am more prepared for the drama having a season under my belt. A lot of the drama exists in our minds, I feel that I have mentally come a long way since the first season and I am able to filter out much of the drama and almost take a ‘back seat’ attitude.

Bravo is a network that obviously has a roster of chef-themed programming. Is there any interest on your part in being on Top Chef, Top Chef Masters, or any of their other shows?

I would definitely welcome any discussion with the network in regards to being on another one of their shows, I guess at this point it is what is best for me. I’m in an exciting, yet delicate position.

Personally, we’d be very interested in seeing how Ben would fare on dry land against a number of other contestants from the “Top Chef” franchise; we would think having TV experience would be somewhat of an advantage, but even more than that being able to cook in a variety of different conditions.

Just for fun, we’ve included one of the videos from the show’s website, where Ben shows you how to cook lobster tempura with a ponzu dressing. There will be some more sporadic coverage of “Below Deck” on CarterMatt throughout the season, so be on the lookout for that.

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Photo: Tommy Garcia / Bravo

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