Monday, July 15, 2024

Fraser Olender’s Caribbean Voyage as the New Chief Stew on ‘Below Deck’ Season 10

The Bravo TV series Below Deck returns with Fraser Olender as Chief Stew, and Vacationer talks to him about his new role, his travel style, and his goal to be the owner of a luxury boutique hotel.

If you’re a Below Deck fan, then you already know that Season 10 is well underway in St. Lucia, and as always, there’s drama on the high seas. And newly appointed Chief Stew Fraser Olender, returning for a second season, has to navigate some tense situations aboard the 197-foot vessel St. David, the largest motor yacht in Below Deck history! Olender is also making history as the first male (and first gay man) in the Chief Stew role on the Bravo TV series!

We caught up with Olender in Gstaad, Switzerland, where he is currently working as a property manager for a large family-owned residence. It’s about a 2.5-hour drive southwest of Zurich and more than 600 miles away from his hometown, London. But the 30-year-old luxury traveler will tell you that he was “raised all over the world.” It’s the kind of statement you’d expect from someone who, from an early age, traveled with his family to different countries every three years as he did. 

During our very frank conversation with Olender, we talk about his new duties as Chief Stew, his bromance with former crew member Jake Foulger, his relationship with Captain Lee, and his bucket-list travel destinations. And you don’t want to miss out as he spills the tea about his dream to own a luxury boutique hotel in the South of France. We’re ready to check in, but for now, you should check out our fun convo! 

Croatia (Photo courtesy of Fraser Olender)
Croatia (Photo courtesy of Fraser Olender)

Vacationer Magazine: You’ve been in the yachting industry for about four years, and you started on a motor yacht in Naples, Italy. What did you do prior to yachting? What was the aha moment you decided to embark on a career in yachting?

Fraser Olender: Gosh! Before yachting, I worked in London at modeling agencies as a commercial male model booker at Models 1, and then I got poached by two premier high-end modeling agencies. I worked to the top there on the commercial side booking fragrances, national campaigns, and all the rest.  And then, fortunately, I was with my boyfriend at the time, and we were invited on a superyacht for a weekend with some friends. I spent 90 percent – no, let’s make that 98 percent – of the time hanging out with the crew over the guests and my friends. I was just fascinated by the genuine adoration and passion for their jobs and something that was just so foreign to me. I didn’t realize that you could love working so much. And they were so refreshing. 

I left not thinking anything about it. I got back into my city lifestyle and one day I thought, “What are my favorite things in the world to do?” It’s travel, luxury hospitality, and it’s to be on the water and in the sun. And weirdly enough, it directed me straight toward the idea of yachting.  So, I announced it to my family, who thought I was having a mental breakdown, but they allowed me to do it somewhat, I had to fight my way through it. But I eventually ended up packing a very oversized hideous backpack, flying to a hostel in the South of France, and selling my soul to the devil that is yachting and looking for a job, and here I am today! 

So, out of curiosity, when and where was your first trip at sea?

You know, I don’t know that specific age, but we (his family) spent a lot of our years on the water and by the sea. I was very fortunate enough to travel a lot on boats with my parents as kids, specifically sailing around the Caribbean and we’ve always been water babies. It felt very natural for me to get into yachting and still to this day is where I feel at my best.  

Fraser Olender with Captain Lee Robach (Photo courtesy of Fraser Olender)
Fraser Olender with Captain Lee Robach (Photo courtesy of Fraser Olender)

So, this is your second season on Below Deck with Captain Lee Robach, how would you characterize your working relationship with him? 

He is a man I hold the utmost respect for. I think he is a brilliant human being, a great friend, and a phenomenal captain. His work ethic is truly something to admire and I’m very, very lucky to know the man personally. 

I’ve been keeping up with the show so far and there’s definitely a lot of drama going on, including what appears to be a health scare for Captain Lee. Are you allowed to talk about that?

Listen… we see a lot this season. We see ups and downs. We see a lot of firsts, but we finish the season beautifully and everything gets resolved. It’s a very turbulent (he pauses with a deep inhale) very turbulent season ahead. So, stay tuned. 

Well, it always is, isn’t it?

Mm, hmm.

Well, the good news is this season you’re Chief Stew! Congrats… I think?! How was it stepping into this new role? Did you get any advice from other yachting colleagues such as your former Chief Stew Heather Chase

The truth of the matter is that I was terrified beyond belief, my nerves were through the roof, and I didn’t know if I could do it. But I had been given the opportunity to be the first male, the first gay male Chief Stew ever (on the Below Deck franchise), and I thought this was my time to show my worth to myself, to everyone out there, and to give it my all. And I’m very proud of it. 

Of course, I needed some coaching beforehand, so I spoke to Heather, and I spoke to Kate (Chastain), and Hannah (Ferrier). They gave me as much advice as they could and it was very, very useful. But when you’re thrown into the depths of things, all of that wonderful advice goes out the window, and you’ve got to just roll with the punches and run. I did that.

Working as Chief Stew you have to work directly with the chef. How was it working with the returning Chef Rachel Hargrove? She has a very interesting personality for sure!

I love her. For me to go back and have Captain Lee and Rachel there, two people I had previously worked with gave me so much security and a sense of comfort. She [Chef Rachel Hargrove] was so helpful toward me and really held my hand during the season. I’m very grateful to her. I think she’s an amazing chef. We work really well together. You know albeit the standard ups and downs you get working with chief stews and chefs. We made it through as good friends, and we always will be. I was really fortunate to have had her around. 

Fraser Olender remains good friends with says he still stays in touch with former crew member Jake Foulger. (Photo Credit: Bravo)
Fraser Olender remains good friends with says he still stays in touch with former crew member Jake Foulger. (Photo Credit: Bravo)

One of the things I loved about the last season of Below Deck was the carefree friendship or bromance with deckhand Jake Foulger. Do you still keep in touch with him and other crew members from last season? If so, who and how often?

I do! I’ve seen Jake many times and we speak a lot. He is in the UK, so I see him when I’m home so we’re still really good friends. I love him dearly. I’m still very good friends with Heather. I speak to her often. I don’t get to see her as much sadly because we live on opposite sides of the world, but she’s dear to my heart. She taught me so much last season and I have to be very grateful for that. And that’s a huge reason why I’m here doing what I’m doing today – so, love her so much! 

I don’t particularly speak to that many others. I speak to Wes occasionally and obviously Captain Lee a lot and that’s it really. We’ve all gone our separate ways.  

Ok, moving more into travel-focused questions. Does how you identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum dictate how you travel the world?

You know… not really. When I was traveling with my partner previously that absolutely did play a huge role in where we were to go away together. That said, we still went to Dubai and Abu Dhabi together – places that aren’t as LGBQT+ friendly or as welcoming as other places like Europe or the States for example. 

But I definitely don’t want to be anywhere or in any country that doesn’t accept me especially if I’m not going out of my way to cause any sort of harm or offense to anyone. So, I would probably avoid that, but I still do love places like Dubai – I go a lot. I just try to be respectful of their culture without being too loud and in their faces or whatnot. I think that’s just a general decorum that one should always have when they are traveling to different places. 

But yeah, I won’t be heading anywhere too dangerous based on the LGBTQ+ status for sure. And there are just some places I don’t think people should be going if they are anti-human rights.

Aspen, Colorado (Photo courtesy of Fraser Olender)
Aspen, Colorado (Photo courtesy of Fraser Olender)

What are some places that you’d recommend to LGBTQ+ travelers to visit based on your travels around the world?

Specifically in Switzerland, Zurich is a fantastic place for the LGBTQ+ community, but equally London. I’m going to stick with Europe that’s what I know the best. London is fabulous and it’s so welcoming and so diverse, and Paris equally! Milan is phenomenal! I’ve always had amazing experiences in New York and LA as well. These places are popular for good reason because they are accepting, and we should get to them. Mykonos for a summer holiday destination although it’s far too expensive and definitely going downhill in its sort of ratings as being chic in my eyes. I believe all these places are also popular and are either managed or frequented by the LGBQ+ population. To be quite frank, no offense to the straights, but we have got taste. 

I know, right?! 

He laughs

You don’t have to explain that to me.

Mm, hmm. 

So speaking of destinations, what are your top three favorite places to visit when on holiday?

Ok, let’s break this up. We’ll do a city break, winter break, ski break, and a sun trip. City break – Paris is always the go-to. I’m going next week. I go to my dad’s place in Aspen for my snow and winter trip every year. We love it! And then my go-to for summer is usually anywhere with sun, but I’m talking actual heat, but I tend to frequent the Maldives a lot. The Indian Ocean has a special place in my heart. 

What top three destinations are still on your travel bucket list?

I really want to do Vietnam… North and South! God, I don’t know how you could do that in such a short amount of time, but I got such admiration for that place. It looks absolutely stunning. I’m really intrigued to go to and possibly live in Singapore. I’ve heard beautiful things. I, as we know, have a little bit of OCD with cleanliness and organization, and apparently, it is the definition of that in a city. I really want to get myself there at some point. I’m really into Asia at the moment. I’d quite like to get to Thailand as well. I haven’t done that. You know what, because of the level of hospitality there is a new level and that’s why I travel – to go and experience exquisite levels of service, hospitality, luxury venues, and dining – food and beverage – and that’s where they’ve got it! Obviously, I could give you a list that would last for pages, but those are the ones I’m fixated on at the moment.

I read somewhere at some point you’d love to own your own hotel. If money was no object, where would it be located? Describe for us what your dream hotel would cool amenities would it include.

I love this! Because I have this all written down, but I just need the cash. I would like to bring superyacht standards to land. I would like to own a boutique hotel in the South of France and a half-hour proximity of St. Tropez and the region down there. I’d like it to contain a cave which is a wine cellar and bar, offering champagne and sparkling wines from all over the world. It would have a maximum of eight to 10 bedrooms. It would be able to be hired as a whole so you could have it for your friends and family for a specific amount of time and we would cater to your needs as you would experience chartering a superyacht. 

You could hire out the rooms individually, but again I’d keep it super boutique-y, super luxurious, and very minimalistic. I would have an old building that I’d refurbished into something more modern, but keep it minimalist: beautiful lighting, exposed walls, and totally serene. I could go on for hours! I also have the name – which I not going to give you – I’ve also got my cocktail menu made with the name of the cocktails. I have a dream and I know I’ll get there. 

Mandarin Oriental in Marrakech, Morocco (Photo courtesy of Fraser Olender)
Mandarin Oriental in Marrakech, Morocco (Photo courtesy of Fraser Olender)

It sounds amazing! I’m ready to check in! So, that’s the last question. Is there anything else you’d like to add or mention?

Speaking to you and your readers as well, if anyone is ever interested in what I do in my travel, I’m about to do a lot of traveling and I’m about to document a lot of it and possibly either write or speak in a podcast about it. So, stay tuned for that if you’re into the finer travel. I speak of pure passion for travel and not because I like to laze by the pool. Because whilst I’m lazing by the pool, I’m taking notes on absolutely everything. In fact, anyone who works in a nice hotel – be warned. I’m coming! 

Ha! Well, we’ll definitely follow you on Instagram to see where your next adventure takes you! Fraser, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to chat with me. 

You can watch Below Deck Season 10 airs Mondays at 8 pm ET/PT on Bravo or catch episodes on the Peacock streaming service. 

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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