Chef Mat Shea reveals which Below Deck Mediterranean food requests are the most difficult

BELOW DECK MEDITERRANEAN -- Pictured: Mathew Shea -- (Photo by: Laurent Basset/Bravo)
BELOW DECK MEDITERRANEAN -- Pictured: Mathew Shea -- (Photo by: Laurent Basset/Bravo) /

While the start of the season was a rocky one, Chef Mat Shea found that cooking in this galley would not necessarily be the typical chef experience. While those Below Deck Mediterranean food requests and preference sheets might sound like a long list of discerning foodie desires, the reality is that Chef Mat reveal on important secret hidden in those likes and dislikes.

For Bravo Below Deck fans, the locales and the guests are only part of the show’s draw. The crew drama is the seasoning that makes each season even spicier than previous charters. From boat-mances to bickering, there is never a blandness to this Bravo show.

Sometimes the chef is the stirs up the pot. From having to please guests’ discerning palates to keep the crew fed, the reality is that the chef might have as much pressure as docking the ship in the narrowest of passages.

In this season of Below Deck Mediterranean, Chef Mat had his fair share of difficulties. After issues with his knee that left the crew to cook the first dinner for the charter guests, it seemed that he was beyond being in the weeds. Add to that situation some tension with his fellow crew members, Chef Mat often seemed to be on the verge of boiling over.

Recently, FoodSided spoke with Chef Mat Shea about Below Deck Mediterranean food requests, his food serving style and a puzzling sushi request.

Chef Mat got his start in a kitchen at a very young age washing dishes. After developing an interest in cooking while being on a Greenpeace boat, the talented chef has used the galley as his classroom. From his mentor that guided him along the way to experiences that have molded his cooking approach, Chef Mat is always looking to hone his skills.

For him, Chef Mat said, “I saw the yachting industry existed and it just seemed so exciting to get paid to travel the world and cook and use different local ingredients wherever you are in the world.” While all those unique local ingredients can be exciting for chefs, the reality is that the charter guests’ preferences are a top priority.

While Chef Mat admitted that “ticking all the boxes for everyone who is challenging,”  he is up for the challenge. Even if he might try give guests some options, the reality is that people want food their way.

Through the process, Chef Mat has found a few tricks that have made cooking for charter guests and private clients a little easier. For example, he shared that he usually plates the first meal as family style. That option gives everyone a chance to try some different food yet still stay within their comfort zone.

But, not everything always goes according to plan. Chef Mat shared a story about a guest who requested sushi yet complained that she was served raw tuna. Even though the preference sheet said tuna sushi, the guest wanted canned tuna in a sushi roll. While Chef Mat eventually gave the guest what she wanted, the reality is that there is some reading between the lines with those preference sheets.

Chef Mat Shea says his Below Deck Mediterranean food preference is the hardest.

While viewers might be aghast at the long preference sheet requests, Chef Mat says that one phrase 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 difficult.”

As seen in one of the season’s first charters, the guest’s comments about “I don’t eat pets” when referring to the lamb, was quite unusual. That information was listed anywhere. While the term adventurous foodie might seem like a nice phrase for that preference sheet, the reality is that this yacht chef would prefer a more detailed list of likes and dislikes.

Although Chef Mat prefers a more specific food list, he does have a few dishes and concepts that usually please most guests. But, he is at the mercy of the food that is available at the moment. For example, in Croatia, fresh, local produce was limited. And, if the guests didn’t particularly prefer those food options, he had to improvise.

Still, cooking for charter guests and other private clients is different. While Chef Mat might learn to adapt to one person’s preferences, every charter presents a new challenge. But, there are a few shortcuts that he will never take.

What Below Deck Mediterranean food will Chef Mat never serve guests?

While Chef Mat often served multi-course meals to the guests, there are a few times when he had to take a shortcut, like the wedding cake, because it was too time consuming to make a proper wedding cake with the limited amount of time.

But, he believes since “people pay a lot of money for these holidays,” he wants to do his best. As he shared, “boxed cookies” should not be on the menu.

Even though the guests are a priority, he is cooking for an even more discerning audience, the crew. Chef Mat said, “because they’re away from home, they’re living and working on the boat, food is the highlight of their day.” He believes that he always “tried to take care of the crew” where he could.

In the end, the emphasis is on the guests. Chef Mat shared “when the first meal goes well it’s awesome. It gives you confidence for the next meal. But when a meal doesn’t come together or you wish you had done something differently, it just gives me more of a desire to try harder to get back because you’re only as good as your last meal.”

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Chef Mat Shea is always looking ahead to his next meal, the next adventure and the next time that he can impress any guest at the table.

Below Deck Mediterranean airs on Bravo Monday nights at 9 p.m. and can be streamed on Peacock. Also, new episodes are available on Mondays, one week early.