Rachel Hargrove is the sort of cast member who reminds you why you watch reality TV: for moments that just couldn’t be scripted. She provided those in spades on Below Deck season eight, from walking off the boat after declaring that the next charter could “eat my cooter,” to drunkenly crashing the band onstage during a day off at a beach club. But after a season on TV, the supremely unfiltered yacht chef now knows she’s not for everyone — and she doesn’t care.
“I can’t wait for the day that I get interviewed by a Karen that’s clutched her pearls so hard that she had autoerotic asphyxiation,” she says over the phone from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She’s preparing for another charter season in the next few days, but she’s excited to look back on Below Deck season nine (which premiered October 25 on Bravo), after returning as chef. “I think it’s going to be a good season for me, just because the fact that you’re going to see me enjoy the shit out of it,” she says.
Season eight was a ride for you. What made you want to come back for another season?
I had a blast, actually. I’m saying it and discussing it, [but] it happened to everybody, with the whole pandemic: It was a lot, and I was getting affected by it, and I couldn’t focus on what exactly was going on at that moment in front of me, which was filming. After, it became our new norm and we could adjust to what was going on, somewhat.
This season is so much more fun because we really didn’t have that much concern anymore. We knew what we were in for, it wasn’t my first rodeo. I had Captain Lee, he was my constant, and I loved every second of it because I got to watch the newbies be deer in headlights.
Were you giving people any advice this season, as one of the returners?
Not really. Everyone did a fantastic job in my eyes. And everybody knows I’m the grumpy, cranky one. I say it like it is. If I’m telling you I liked it, it was amazing. [Laughs.] Something happened or I’m on Paxil!
You alluded to when you left the boat, but there were also some other moments — the beach-club day, for instance. What did it feel like to watch yourself back from season eight and see all the highs and lows?
I wish they showed more footage. I was kind of bummed that they zoned in on just that; there was so much more. But you know what? I had a blast. I was napping most of the time [at the beach club] and then it was just like, “Get up, go do something.” And I was like, “Oh, you want me to interact with others? Let’s do something fun. I’m going to get onstage.”
Was this new season your first boat since the pandemic or had you been back to work?
Oh, no. I had been working the whole time. I was actually like, “Yeah, I didn’t get the memo!” It was crazy. I did a trans-Atlantic crossing from West Palm Beach to France, Antibes, and we had guests on. I’d never had guests on a crossing before.
One of the things fans have been speculating about was whether during the pandemic, the sort of people who were able to go out and charter yachts were more difficult guests based on that, or on having been inside for so long and finally getting to go out. As the chef and someone who works with the guests a lot, what’s your take on that?
That [crossing] was mid-pandemic, it was full force. My charter guests really didn’t give a fuck. They were like, “No, we don’t care. Here’s our PCR.” And all the power to them. This season, for the show, I think that everyone was just really grateful and happy to be out. Our guests are U.S. citizens, so everyone was really excited to be out and about and be connected with their loved ones and their friends in such close proximity. Granted, we had still had some ups and downs like we normally do — every boat does. I wouldn’t say that anybody was extra. I think that they were just the right amount.
In the first episode of this season, you make an entrance in this all-white outfit and a sunhat. Was that planned at all?
I had a really good iron and some starch in my room, because we all had to quarantine before we started the show. So, I had a lot of time in my room, by myself. I was like, Girl, what are you going to do today? I feel like doing my makeup. And I was waiting for my PCR results to come back so I could walk down the dock, and they were running late with them. So I zhuzhed myself up all the way, just [for] coming down the dock.
You were telling me earlier about being excited to get back to working with Captain Lee, but you get there, and Captain Sean is there. From the first episode, he seemed a bit different than Captain Lee. What can you tell us about what it was like to work with Captain Sean?
He comes with such a different approach, different dynamic, everything. My bitter salty dog, Captain Lee, I love him. His sense of humor, his delivery, I love it because I’m used to it and I’m just like, “Yeah, I get it.” And then you’ve got this peppy go-getter, who’s really excited, and he just is a big ball of energy. I was like, Do I need to give this guy a Xanax? He was so excited to film, so excited, which is great, it’s fantastic. But I come from the world of Captain Lee where I’m like, “Okay, that’s great. Calm the fuck down.” No, I really like Sean, it just was crazy because it’s so polar opposites.
Also in the first episode, we get, this quick exchange between you and Eddie. How did you feel about seeing him again and knowing you were going to be working with him on another season, given your past conflict?
I don’t mind working with Eddie at all. He does great with his department and when it comes time for everyone to work together as a team to make sure that the guests are happy, he’s there to help, which is great. On a personal level, would I be on Facebook with Eddie and go to dinner with Eddie? No, sorry. But a professional level? Yeah, all day long I’ll work with Eddie.
Do you think the two of you had a better season? It sounds like it.
I think I had a great season because of the fact that I really loved the dynamic of all the crew. I had a blast with everybody.
Were you single this season?
How was that different than last time?
Oh, it was great because I didn’t have to worry about 150 pounds of doubt, ultimatums, filtered from afar. [Laughs.] I can just go and run with it myself. This season, I just walked into it like, Hey, let’s make this my bitch.
In the “What’s to come this season …” it seems like everyone had a thing for Jake, and it teased a moment between you and Jake. What can you tell me about Jake?
Oh, he’s hilarious. He tells these stories, he’s so good at it, you become enveloped into this story, and in the back of your mind, you’re thinking, I can actually see him doing these absurd things and he’s absolutely fucked in the head and I love this kid. He’s genuinely himself, he doesn’t care, and that’s really refreshing to see. Everyone loved Jake because he really was unadulterated, 100 percent Jake, and he was hilarious. And I loved working with him, and then I loved beating him with the … well, you’ll see. With multiple items. [Laughs.] He liked it!
That was what we saw the teaser a bit.
Yeah, and [the electric fly-swatter] was on, and if you listened very closely, there was a zap. This cougar got crazy this season!
Oh my gosh. Aside from that moment of you hitting Jake and a few things being dropped, we really didn’t see much of you in the teaser for this season. How would you tease what’s to come for you?
Oh, I’m boring.
I find that hard to believe.
I think you’re just going to see me put my head down and work really hard and be as sarcastic as humanly possible. I’ve got red hair, so I like beating Jake — I found something in myself. No, I’m kidding! [Laughs.] It was the red hair, it made me do it. I swear to God.
I haven’t even seen the footage, but I do some crazy shit, which I’m excited about. I don’t know what’s going to make the cut. Hopefully I’m funny enough to at least see me a couple times during an episode.