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How Do You Solve a Problem Like Samantha?
Adrienne Gang talks about problems with Sam, her fears, and Kat's drinking.
Bravotv.com: First, you say in the premiere that this is your first time as a Chief Stew(ard). What are your biggest fears?
Adrienne Gang: I am usually the chef on these yachts, however, I have been a stew in the past, and I have worked under some pretty strict stews. I was fearful that I would come off as tough too. The hard part is finding the balance between being the boss during the day and being a friend at night. At the end of the day, no matter if you are sick, or tired, or hungover, there are still guests on board that need 24-hour care, and I can't let our service suffer. I was trepidatious that the audience wouldn't understand the full demand of my position, but I'm happy that I took on the challenge.
Bravotv.com: What is the Chief Stew position expected to do differently than the Stews?
AG: My position is much less about the daily chores of doing laundry and cleaning bathrooms, although I have done my fair share of that on other boats, and am always happy to jump in when we are behind as a team. Being the Chief Stew is much more about focusing on service and coordinating the guests activities and excursions along with all of their demands and preferences. I am the one who goes on location for events like picnics, BBQs, etc. to make sure everything is perfect for the guests. I have to be in contact with the guests well ahead of time, so that we can avoid situations like the "Great Veggie Juice Debacle." I handle a lot of the paperwork and logistics for the trips, which, depending on their complexity, can require lots of phone calls and emails with suppliers, florists, masseuses, tour guides, taxi companies, and everyone else we would need to coordinate with in order to make the guest experience as seamless and relaxing as possible. I also handle some of the financial management of the ship and oversee the care of the entire interior of the vessel including managing, scheduling, and training the stews under me. I guess the best way to sum up my position is that I'm the "cruise director" in charge of all the guest entertainment, activities, and social events, and working with the other crew members including the deck staff, engineers, and chef to arrange everything; no small feat! For a much more comprehensive description of what my and the other girls jobs are, check out The Insiders' Guide to Becoming a Yacht Stewardess by Julie Perry or www.workonayacht.com
Bravotv.com: You and Sam pretty much rubbed each other the wrong way from the get-go. What do you think caused the bad first impressions?
AG: I think that it can happen in any working environment that you encounter people that just rub you the wrong way. I think Sam is a smart, fun-loving girl, but that she never really took her position as a stew on this yacht very seriously, and I still had a job to do. There are plenty of people who get into yachting and shortly discover that the workload is not for them. It's frustrating in any career to have someone working for you who has no real motivation or interest to learn the job. How do you motivate someone who is indifferent? I know that I as a leader I had a lot of challenging issues to deal with, and I still feel like I did my best to handle each situation as it happened.
Bravotv.com: Kat says she feels like she's in the middle between you two. What's your take on that?
AG: She absolutely was. I appreciate all of the pep talks and encouragement she gave both Sam and me. Hers was also not an easy position to be in because she found herself picking up a lot of slack for Sam and fielding frustration from both Sam and myself. Kat is a hard worker and a kind-hearted girl, and I didn't envy her being stuck in the middle of us, but I think she handled it really well.Bravotv.com: Ideally, what would you like to see Sam change to improve?
AG: Unfortunately, I think Sam came into this experience without fully understanding what the 3rd stew position required. If she had read the information I gave her at the beginning of the trip or done any prior research of her own she would have known that on most yachts of this size the 3rd stew is the lowest rung on the totem pole and therefore relegated to doing nothing but laundry, heads, and beds, as opposed to having anything to do with guest interaction, especially on her first charter. I think if she had been more open-minded to what yachting is, how it works, and the chain of command, then she would assimilate into he environment much better, not to mention having a little respect for her superiors. I still believe that "You don't know what you don't know" perfectly pertains to Sam in this scenario.
Bravotv.com: In this episode, we see Kat get quite drunk while you guys are out. As her manager, what were you thinking watching it happen?
AG: Kat is a really dedicated and hard worker when she puts her mind to it. I was disappointed that she went as far as she did because I knew it would affect her performance and we already had enough pressure with the charter guests showing up early the next day. In high stress jobs such as these, there is a need to blow off steam and hit a reset button. I'm guilty of that myself, but you have to be responsible about it and make sure that it never affects the guest experience.
Bravotv.com: Captain Lee reprimanded you for the vegetable shortage. Do you think he was out of line?
AG: I think that he was justified in his disappointment, but that he didn't fully understand the situation. The "Green Monster" -- as I like to call it -- was one item on one three-page preference sheet out of six that I received. There was no way to know that every guest at the table for practically every meal would order it! I feel like all three of us girls were happy not to hear the whir of that juicer for a while after that trip. In the end, all we can do is prepare the best we can with the information we are given. Fortunately, we were able to get more veggies with the guests being none the wiser: crisis averted!
Bravotv.com: You got hypnotized so you can take a little pressure off and hopefully help your relationship with Sam. Did it really work? What was that experience like?
AG: I really wish it had! Ha! That might have made the rest of the trip easier. I think that as amazing as Steve is, I was so far down the rabbit hole with my frustration at the time that he would have needed spelunking gear to retrieve me!Bravotv.com: Do you think you're being unfairly pegged as too strict?
AG: Yes and no. In yachting, you generally hire, stews especially, based on a combination of personality and skill set. The skills can be learned, but the personality is a lot harder to find. Generally, captains and owners look for girls with charisma, a strong work ethic, a desire to learn, and energy. As the Chief Stew, coming into this and working with both of these girls for the first time, it is my job to assess each girl's skill level and utilize their strengths to the advantage of the team. It comes across like I'm being awfully critical of Sam a majority of the time, and maybe I am a bit tough, but perfection has a cost, and when people aren't pulling their own weight, pressure mounts quickly, and everyone feels it. I feel like a lot of people would react the way that I do and probably worse if they were in my position, but I tried my best to maintain my composure and make sure my guests were taken care of.
Bravotv.com: Anything else you'd like to add?
AG: I think that this show is a great opportunity for people who have had limited or no exposure to yachting to get an idea of what it's like to be on both ends of the spectrum. I realize that many of the things we do as a crew will be a fantastic training tools for the people in my industry to use in the future. I know that at the end of the day, if there had been more adequate training for myself and many other people on board that many of these mistakes could have been avoided. I look forward to the interest that Below Deck generates for young and more seasoned people alike to take yachting seriously as a career option, as opposed to just a hobby. I still believe that this show and our efforts will prove to be a positive influence for the yachting industry as a whole, and I'm excited about it broadening the scope of yacht owners and charter guests in the future!