Francesca Rubi steps into the role of Chief Stew in Below Deck Season 8 / Picture Credit: Bravo
Francesca Rubi steps into the role of Chief Stew in Below Deck Season 8 / Picture Credit: Bravo

For over six months now, I’ve spent my time binging everything Bravo has to offer from their Below Deck franchise. Getting a peek into the lives of the crew on board a luxury yacht has been a real eye-opener, so when I heard an eighth season was right around the corner, I couldn’t have been more excited!

With beloved chief stew Kate Chastain having left the series following a volatile final season, a new face has stepped into the role to help Captain Lee provide some of the most extravagant charters in the Caribbean.

Enter Francesca Rubi.

We got the opportunity to catch up with Francesca following the airing of Season 8’s first episode, chatting all about her crew, working around cameras and what led to that breakdown teased in the season’s trailer!

Here’s what she had to say…

This is your first season of Below Deck and the first episode aired this week! How have you found the overall response following that first episode?

I found it fantastic actually, I got some really, really great feedback and a load of beautiful comments; a lot of ‘welcome to the Below Deck team’ and a lot of welcoming comments. It’s been really, really nice. I’ve had a very warm welcome to the show which is really nice.

Obviously working on a yacht is close quarters, so having those extra bodies to work around in the form of the Below Deck filming team - what was that like?

It was quite close! It is close quarters. When you first get on a boat everything seems so big and then very quickly, everything is so small!

The guests come on board and they’re like, ‘oh my God this is so big!’, and then you spend 20 minutes working on it and you think it’s the smallest thing ever! (laughs)

I really need a step counter to count how many steps I do during the day!

You’re replacing Kate Chastain in a role she’s held now for many years on the show; was there any extra pressure there to really deliver because of the working relationship she shared with Captain Lee?

Sure. I know that Kate did five or six years and she’s got a great relationship with the crew, but I went in there just doing the best job that I could. 

It’s not worth myself trying to live up to being someone else. I’ve got my own standards and they’re pretty high as well, like Captain Lee’s, so I just went in there doing the best that I could.

Captain Lee returns for a stellar eighth season of Below Deck / Picture Credit: Bravo
Captain Lee returns for a stellar eighth season of Below Deck / Picture Credit: Bravo

Captain Lee is a man who prioritises action over words - was there anything you did differently ahead of the season to prepare yourself for working with him?

I think, that getting to know Captain Lee, I definitely have similar working ethics. We both have high standards, we need to tackle situations head-on and if it doesn’t get resolved, then ask for assistance. 

I definitely believe that I’m a problem solver as well. I just want everything to be perfect and everybody to be accountable, so you’ve just got to find a way really.

Your first charter guest Charley Walters, we’ve seen on the show before and he can be a bit of a handful! We saw your stewardess Izzy Wouters struggle a little on day one, why do you think that was?

Look, there was a lot going on, we were all thrown into the deep end and it was just our luck that Charley was our first guest! (laughs)

But look, we pulled it off in the end. It was just getting used to a new boat, remembering where everything is… You need to find a balance in working quickly and efficiently but also, doing everything correctly.

Even though Izzy - she was taking her time doing things and I definitely needed them speeding up, I’m not sure why [she took so long] - but I think that she was just doing [her job].

The season write-up for Season 8 teases a ‘breaking point’ for you and we do see a little of that in the trailer. Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about that?

There was a lot going on. That first charter, not having a lot of time to prepare and also, I’m really big on wellbeing and setting yourself up for the day and nourishing yourself and doing your absolute best. 

I actually think I only got a good four hours sleep one evening, I didn’t eat anything, I didn’t drink any water and, the Captain could have come to me and said ‘What’s going on?’ and I would have burst into tears! It was one of those moments.

It’s kind of a little bit cringe but at the same time, it makes me human, and maybe some of the public will be able to relate to that as well.

I guess I learned that I need to look after myself first and foremost and not put so much pressure on myself, and make sure I have time to eat and drink water.

We’ve seen a lot of romance across the Below Deck franchise and in the trailer for this season, James seems keen on getting to know you but also one of your stews! What can you tell us about that?

Yep, James seems keen on pretty much everybody! I’m surprised he wasn’t into all the guys and all the guests as well!

I can’t tell you [much about] that… Number one rule, especially for Head of Department, is don’t screw the crew. But I’m also a very big flirt so I try and find a little bit of balance with that. (laughs)

Eddie Lucas is hoping to make a triumphant comeback this season / Picture Credit: Bravo
Eddie Lucas is hoping to make a triumphant comeback this season / Picture Credit: Bravo

Eddie Lucas has always been a favourite with fans of the show and they’re excited to see him back! What was he like to work with?

He’s fantastic. He has a great balance of being professional and also having a sense of humour with his crew and deck crew. He’s a really good role model for them.

I loved working with him, he’s a great Head of Department to have by my side.

The relationship between chef and chief stew is super important so, what should we expect from your working relationship with Rachel Hargrove this season?

I really enjoyed working with Rachel. She’s really meticulous and so knowledgeable about food. She blows everyone away. Her food is just incredible and her knowledge behind it is next level and I’m so happy that I got to work with her.

Everyone has their breaking points and there is sometimes a bit of a volcano situation going on in the kitchen ready to erupt, but you’ve gotta expect from that chefs as well in the galley. There’s a lot of pressure riding on them and for the food to be perfect.

I’m sure we’ll see a little bit of it this season after watching the trailer, but how has the coronavirus pandemic affected the industry in your experience?

Well, I’m in Australia at the moment and I’ve been working on a couple of boats here and I think, we’re lucky enough to have charters booked but, not as many as previous years. So, the big stuff, all the corporate parties and things have slowed down a little bit.

I know in the Mediterranean, things were slow, I’m not sure what they’re like now but they did slow down quite a lot. People cut down crew, people that needed crew weren’t hiring from Australia because of the virus, we had to quarantine, there’s a lot of different factors going on.

I think that it’s definitely going to be one of the hardest things for the industry.

Good television has been vital for a lot of people through lockdown and the like. Have you been binging anything in lockdown?

Yes! I binge on Below Deck Sailing Yacht, Below Deck Med, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, I love Vanderpump Rules as well, and I’ve just recently started getting into, not reality, but Vampire Diaries!

Picture Credit: Bravo
Picture Credit: Bravo

All seasons of Below Deck are available on hayu, with brand new Season 8 available to stream and download now every Tuesday.

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