Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Below Deck’s Fraser Olender on the New Season, Captain, Crew, and That Kiss

Bravo’s Below Deck premieres tonight and season 11 takes the crew to the beautiful Caribbean Island of Grenada aboard the 197-foot motoryacht St. David. So, we thought we’d reach out to Fraser Olender who makes a return to the popular TV series as the Chief Stew for the second season in a row. He spills all the juicy details about the new season, his new boss, Captain Kerry Titheradge, the new crew, and what appears to be a tense relationship with Lead Deckhand Ben Willoughby – well, based on the season preview below. 

We also get to the bottom of that on-screen kiss with a charter guest and whether they’re still a couple. Tapping into his travel style, Olender raves about which country LGBTQ+ travelers should definitely add to their travel bucket list. That’s just a taste. It’s a fun convo you don’t want to miss! 

Fraser Olender (Photo by: Fred Jagueneau/Bravo)
Fraser Olender (Photo by: Fred Jagueneau/Bravo)

Kwin Mosby: In your bio on Bravo’s website, you summed up the new season as “dynamic, challenging, and unexpected.” How was it as the Chief Stew for another season and managing the personalities of a new crew?

Fraser Olender:  You know, it’s never easy. However, I did learn a lot from Season 10, and I do feel like I brought everything that I learned to this season. And I feel pretty proud of how I got through it. Listen, it’s never gonna be perfect. I’m never going to have the perfect crew. There’s always going to be someone who’s going to test me on every single level of which there was (spoiler alert) this year. 

But, again, I didn’t come back perfect. I learned a hell of a lot from 11, too. And it’s just every year and every experience, every encounter with a different personality or a different challenge teaches you how to cope and deal with future similar situations. So I’m just so grateful to have been offered the position of chief for yet another year and to grow in my role. I just love it!

Speaking of different people and personalities… Ben Willoughby returns this season as the Lead Deckhand, too. How was working with him again?

That silence was purposeful, by the way. [Kwin laughs] It was Interesting. Ben and I are like brothers. We have a very sibling-like love for each other, which will always be there, but boy, does he know how to press my buttons and poke the bear. He knows my weakness. He knows what makes me sort of insecure and he likes to play with them. Now, I don’t know why, but it happens. And I love him to bits, but he did make this season a challenge for me. 

He also couldn’t keep his hands, off the girls as usual. So, so yeah. But we’re good!


We’ll miss Captain Lee Rosbach on Below Deck this season. What was it like working with Captain Kerry Titheradge? Did you meet him before filming the new season? 

Yes. So, I met Captain Kerry in New York at BravoCon the year before we filmed. I only really had it sort of a brief encounter with him, and I had been paired with him for all of these sort of, you know, events and whatnot. I wasn’t too sure why, but I guess it makes sense now. But, no, he was lovely. We got along really well, and when I saw him, it was great. You know, he’s the fourth captain I’ve worked with on the Below Deck franchise. I think I’m safe to say that that’s a record. So I’m used to new captains. I’m used to rolling with the punches, and I’m just so grateful that he and I got along as well as we did this year. So, so, so grateful.

So, I mean… in comparison to Captain Lee’s management style, how would you characterize Captain Kerry’s style? Is it different?

Yeah, 100 percent. Every captain comes with their different experiences, their different management styles, and their different personalities. So I can’t compare them all. They all are so different and so strong in their own right. You know, obviously, everyone’s got their weaknesses, but he came in with a really fresh attitude and sort of positive outlook on the season, and he was fun. 

You know, he really wanted to get involved and get us out. And I think that comes from his adventure side of things, you know. He was so happy for the girls and I to jump off the boat if we had a few minutes whilst the guests were on a beach picnic or, you know, just get out and really enjoy our surroundings. And that’s something that I have found more refreshing … not to say that Lee or Sandy wouldn’t have asked that, but Kerry encouraged that, and I appreciate that.


This season you have a completely new crew. Which crew member did you confide in the most for Season 11?

Xandi [Olivier]. She’s my check my second stew, and she is the epitome of perfection in stewardess. She is kind. She is caring. She is humble. She is hardworking. She is thorough, and she’s hilarious. I mean, I was very, very lucky to have Xandi.

The relationship between the Chief Stew and the Chef is really important. So what are three words to describe your relationship with Chef Anthony Iracane?
Chef Anthony was brilliant to work with. Again, it’s very rare in a chef, but he is kind. He’s very calm, you know, cool and collected, and he’s a brilliant artist in the galley. So I rate him a 10 out of 10.

Out of my entire time watching Below Deck and interviews, I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone use the word “calm” when referring to the chef.

And you know what? When I met him and I started working with him, I was like, what in the hell is going on here? How is this guy so calm? How is he so nice? And do you know what? There are no catches there. The boy is harmless. He is brilliant, and he is just a decent human being and, you know, congrats to his parents on raising him.


So I’ve seen a lot recently about your “boatmance” this season with this mysterious charter guest, Steven. [audible gasp from Fraser] What can fans expect to see especially because, you know, some captains have a no-mingling-with-charter-guests policy? So, can you tell me a little bit about what’s going on with that kiss in the season 11 extended sneak peek?

Yeah. I guess I can just clarify a few things. One, it started out as a joke, then got into something more serious, but ultimately whilst he was a charter guest, and he was on board, I treated the charter like a charter. I asked permission from Captain [Kerry] when it came up when there was a possible unity for things to go a bit further. But it absolutely wasn’t on trip, and yeah, I can’t really say anymore. It’s very exciting. It’s the first time I’ve had some romance in the franchise before. So, I can’t wait for people to see a little bit of a softer side to me and a romantic side.

Yay! Oh, I can’t wait. I have to ask, are you two still together?

I am not going to respond to that, but I can tell you that I’m in a relationship.

Gotcha!

Olender in liplock with charter guest "Steven" during off-work hours. (Photo Credit: Bravo)
Olender in a liplock with charter guest “Steven” during off-work hours. (Photo Credit: Bravo)

Let’s talk a little about Grenada which is the backdrop character for this season of Below Deck. Homosexuality is illegal in Grenada. For some of us, who identify as LGBTQ+ travel with privilege, that doesn’t stop us from traveling the world. How would you describe Grenada to someone who hasn’t been before? 

You know, I think I travel a hell of a lot, and I travel to countries where homosexuality is not recognized as legal. I’ve been to places whereby, it’s totally, you know, possibly even sort of, death sentenced. I think it’s very important to always have your wits about you, to always do your research before you travel, and most importantly, to have respect for the place, location, or destination you’re going to or you’re in. If you know something is not, particularly accepted there, socially or legally, you know, you must keep that in mind and do your best to – I’m not gonna say suppress – but do your best to respect the environment you’re in. 

I didn’t think too much about it. I think it’s totally insanity that homosexuality can be illegal in this day and age in a country. I didn’t parade around – well, I didn’t make out in a club – but, it doesn’t truly affect me that much. Again, it saddens me that it’s the truth. But, yeah, do as I say, not as I do. Don’t make out in clubs or public that’s for sure. But I’m not in prison, so I got away with it somehow. 

But, I mean, in general, I think as far as a place to visit. I assume you liked it based on what you’re saying, right?

I loved it! And as much as a place can have laws against things that I believe; I’m still going to enjoy, the place to the best of my ability. It’s a beautiful place, and I’d recommend it for anyone to go. But yeah, I guess just have respect for the place.


Nope. I totally understand that. And that’s usually how I travel. I don’t always travel to places that are specifically LGBTQ+-friendly because I think that’s part of travel – to authentically experience every place.

Absolutely… and all cultures and try and get a broader understanding. Yeah, I disagree.

I saw that you know a few other people from the other Below Deck franchises. Have you talked to Natalya about the interior crew drama that went down on most of the recent season of Below Deck Mediterranean?

Yes. Well, I’ve spoken to all of them. I have no comment. Listen … what happens in everyone’s seasons … everyone’s going through a hell of a lot. You don’t use it. You know, it’s difficult to be doing the best or doing what you would do if you weren’t in the situations and confined spaces with the stress that you’re under. I think that there’s wrongdoings on everyone’s account, but I’m equally friendly with all of them. 

I know what it’s like to be in those situations, and we’re not proud of everything that we’ve done. Just because it’s being televised and for the world to see, it doesn’t mean we should be, you know, held to that for the rest of our lives. So I think it’s important to realize that.

That makes sense. At first, I thought you were gonna say, “What happens on a Below Deck season stays on a Below Deck season.” [laughs]

I mean, do you know, I wish it did, but it doesn’t. It carries on whilst people are watching it afterward. So, yeah, it’s a sad reality.

Between seasons 10 and 11, where were traveling? I know you were in Switzerland the last time I talked to you, so what cool places that you visited between the two seasons? 

So I was, yeah, I was living in Switzerland for a little bit. I was living in LA for a little bit. So, I did a lot of trips to LA this year. I went to Cyprus. I do have an annual trip. I go to Cyprus to see my best friend. I love the place, but equally, my best friend is there, which makes it so much more wonderful to visit. I truly haven’t been on too many wild and wonderful trips. 

I went to Barbados and I also most recently went to South Africa for the first time, and I can tell you 100 percent it was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. The food was exquisite. The service was unbelievable. The care for the grounds and the maintenance of absolutely every venue I was at was through the roof, and it’s all very affordable. So I would recommend for anyone to go. Sure, It’s not the safest place, but if you have your wits about you, it can be superb. So that is my top top top travel destination from last year.

I’ve been to Cape Town and really loved Jo’burg. It was amazing.

I just love it.

Do you have any big trips planned this year? Any bucket list trips?

You know what? Two years ago … three years ago now I officiated one of my best friend’s wedding. It seemed to have started a trend after people saw the video – I guess. And I’m now marrying another best friend this year, and I’m marrying another best friend next year. So this year, I’m marrying a couple in the south of Italy. That’s all I have planned for the moment. I’m currently in Aspen, and I’m gonna be out here skiing until spring. 

So, yeah, I haven’t got anything yet, but please do stay tuned because before you know it, I’ll be on a flyer and my Instagram will be demonstrating all of it.

Sounds good. 

I think that’s all that I wanted to ask, but do you have any parting words for Below Deck fans about Season 11?

Yeah… you know, I feel like this year, more so than ever, I was truly tested with my patience to deal with people and challenges in general that I have no choice other than to deal with. And I think it’s a really important thing that I’ve learned, and I really want – if anything from this season – for people to really look into it and sort of learn from it too. What we do on yachts isn’t too dissimilar to the exact same set-up or scenarios that people get in their day-to-day work, and I had to deal with something that was very, very difficult. But I came through that. So stay tuned as I said. There’s so much that happens this season, but I’m really, really proud, and I cannot wait for you guys all to enjoy it with us.

Yeah. I’m super excited about it. Fraser, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to me. Not to worry.

Thank you so much for having me. 

Fraser Olender (Photo by: Fred Jagueneau/Bravo)
Fraser Olender (Photo by: Fred Jagueneau/Bravo)

Below Deck fans can follow Fraser Olender on InstagramTikTok, and X (Twitter).

Don’t forget to watch the premiere of Below Deck Season 11 tonight (Monday, February 5, 2024) on Bravo at 9 pm ET, or catch new episodes streaming on Peacock the day after! 

Kwin Mosby

Kwin Mosby has 20+ years of editorial experience which has included working as the editor-in-chief for Vacationer Magazine, managing digital producer for Travel Channel, and content manager for Travel Leaders Group. He is also a freelance writer and his work has appeared in reputable print and digital publications, including Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, AFAR, Tripadvisor, and others.

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