Chef Mat Shea reveals tough demands for Mediterranean cuisine below deck
While the start of the season was tough, Chef Mat Shea discovered that cooking in this kitchen might not necessarily be the typical chef experience. While these requests for Mediterranean dishes below deck and preference sheets may seem like a long list of desires for discerning foodies, the reality is that Chef Mat is revealing an important secret hidden in these likes and dislikes.
For Bravo Below Deck fans, locations and guests are just part of the show’s draw. The drama of the crew is the seasoning that makes each season even spicier than previous charters. From rides to bickering, there is never blandness in this Bravo show.
Sometimes the chef is stirring the pot. From having to please the most demanding palates of customers to feed the crew, the reality is that the chef can be under as much pressure as mooring the ship in the tightest of passages.
In this season of Under Deck Mediterranean, Chef Mat has had his share of difficulties. After issues with his knee that left the crew to cook the first dinner for charter guests, it looked like he was beyond being in the weeds. Add to this some tension with his fellow crew members, Chef Mat often seemed to be on the verge of overflowing.
Recently, FoodSided spoke with Chef Mat Shea about requests for Mediterranean dishes under the bridge, his style of service, and a confusing demand for sushi.
Chef Mat got his start in a very young kitchen doing the dishes. After developing an interest in cooking while on a Greenpeace boat, the talented chef used the kitchen as a classroom. From his mentor who guided him along the way to experiences that shaped his culinary approach, Chef Mat is always looking to hone his skills.
For him, Chef Mat said: “I saw that the yachting industry existed and it seemed so exciting to be paid to travel the world, cook and use different local ingredients wherever you are in the world. While all of these unique, local ingredients can be exciting for chefs, the reality is that the preferences of charter guests are a top priority.
While Chef Mat has admitted that he “ticks all the boxes for anyone who is picky”, he’s up for the challenge. While he may try to give guests options, the reality is that people want to eat their way.
During the process, Chef Mat found a few tips that made cooking a bit easier for charter guests and private clients. For example, he shared that he usually cooks the first meal like family style. This option gives everyone the opportunity to try different dishes while remaining in their comfort zone.
But, not everything always goes as planned. Chef Mat told the story of a guest who asked for sushi but complained that he was served raw tuna. Even though the preference sheet said tuna sushi, the guest wanted canned tuna in a sushi roll. While Chef Mat finally gave the guest what she wanted, the reality is there is some reading between the lines with these preference sheets.
Chef Mat Shea says his preference for Mediterranean cuisine under the bridge is the most difficult.
While viewers may be appalled by the lengthy requests for preference sheets, Chef Mat says one sentence is often a bad sign for his job. He admitted, “When I see a preference sheet that says, I eat everything, I know that person will be really picky.”
As seen in one of the first charters of the season, the guest’s comments on “I don’t eat pets” with reference to lamb, were quite unusual. This information was listed anywhere. While the term adventurous gourmet might sound like a nice phrase for this preference sheet, the reality is this yacht chef would prefer a more detailed list of his likes and dislikes.
While Chef Mat prefers a more specific list of dishes, he has a few dishes and concepts that most guests generally like. But, he is at the mercy of the food that is available right now. For example, in Croatia, fresh and local produce was limited. And, if the diners did not particularly prefer these dishes, he had to improvise.
Yet cooking for charter guests and other private clients is different. While Chef Mat can learn to adapt to a person’s preferences, each charter presents a new challenge. But, there are a few shortcuts he will never take.
What Mediterranean food under the bridge will Chef Mat never serve his guests?
While Chef Mat often served multi-course meals to guests, sometimes he had to take a shortcut, like the wedding cake, because it took too long to make a good wedding cake with limited time.
But, he thinks, since “people pay a lot of money for these vacations,” he wants to do his best. As he shared, “boxed cookies” shouldn’t be on the menu.
Even if the guests are a priority, he cooks for an even more demanding audience, the crew. Chef Mat said: “Because they are far from home, live and work on the boat, food is the highlight of their day”. He believes he always “tried to take care of the crew” where he could.
Ultimately, the focus is on the guests. Chef Mat shared “when the first meal goes well, it’s great. It gives you confidence for the next meal. But when a meal isn’t going or you wish you had done something different, it just makes me want to try harder to come back because you’re not as good as your last meal.
Chef Mat Shea always looks forward to his next meal, the next adventure, and the next time he can impress any guest at the table.
Under Deck Mediterranean airs on Bravo Monday nights at 9 p.m. and can be streamed on Peacock. In addition, new episodes are available on Monday, a week earlier.