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Katie Flood is keeping things in ship shape in the interior as Below Deck Mediterranean's new chief stew in Season 6. But she had actually only watched "little bits" of the show before joining the crew.
"Obviously, [I] watched Season 4 because my ex [Jack Stirrup] was in it. And then, I watched Season 5 when I realized I was gonna be doing [the show]. So I kind of caught up on that," Katie told The Daily Dish during an exclusive interview prior to the Below Deck Med Season 6 premiere in June. "I don't follow it all. Which sounds sad. But I honestly just don't have time. Like, I work so much."
Katie has worked in the yachting industry for the past seven years, which is all thanks to a fateful call from one of her best friends, Ben, who has also worked on Lady Michelle, Below Deck Med's vessel for Season 6. Katie, who is originally from New Zealand, had just graduated from college and was working in Australia at the time Ben reached out to her about a new opportunity.
"Everything was just, like, wasn't really working out for me. That was just a really hard time in my life. There was a lot going on in my personal life. All these things I was trying to do [were] just kind of backfiring. So I kind of took it as a sign that I wasn't meant to do this, or this isn't the path I was meant to go down," she recalled. "And then, you know, Ben called me… And he was like, 'Just come and jump on a boat for a year. Travel. Make some money. And then, like, you know, buy yourself some time to figure out the next step and what you want to do.'"
"So I booked a one-way ticket to France. And I was 23 years old," Katie continued. "And I got super lucky on the boats I worked on. Really cool owners. Really good captains. Just really good boats. And I guess I've never looked back from there."
Katie joked that her "one-year sabbatical has turned into a seven-year sabbatical," but noted that "it's been a ride" with "a lot of adventures."
So, as Katie got ready to join the Below Deck Med crew for Season 6, she said that she watched the previous season mostly to get an idea of what it would be like to do her job as a chief stew with cameras around. "'Cause that's new to me. Like, yachting, I've been in the industry seven years. I know what I'm doing. But it's adding that different element. So we're adding a camera crew," she explained. "So I watched Season 5 to kind of, I guess, like, educate myself on that. Because it's like doing my job, but then there's all these other people following you around."
Even though she had already seen Captain Sandy Yawn and Malia White in action in Season 5 of Below Deck Med, Katie said that she was eager to get to know her fellow crew members when she met them in person. "I never had an opinion about them," Katie said. "And I'm the kind of person, like, you can tell me someone's like this or like that. But I'd rather have my own opinion and get to know them myself and judge for myself."
When Katie finally did get to know Captain Sandy this season of Below Deck Med, the two had an instant rapport, according to the chief stew. "I really enjoyed working with Captain Sandy. I think we had a really good relationship, which is always important on any boat to have a good relationship with your captain because we have to work together a lot. And we're the ones that have to deal with the guest demands or the guest complaints and, you know, try and keep things, like, perfect, basically, which is absolutely impossible," Katie said. "Captain Sandy was really good to me. We had a great relationship. I think she really trusted me, which was good. And, you know, when I did go to her for things I needed or have some support, I felt like she did have my back in that way. So for me, I had a really good experience."
Captain Sandy similarly had a great first impression of Katie. "You know, it was interesting, because obviously, I’m a captain. I’ve driven many different vessels and had many different crew. For me, Katie was a breath of fresh air," Captain Sandy told The Daily Dish in a separate interview. "It was like, she didn’t miss a beat, and she came on and she led."
Captain Sandy recalled Katie impressing her with her leadership skills from the very beginning of the charter season. "[Third stew Courtney Veale] went over to a pillow and she put a karate chop, you know, how a lot of people do to make the pillow indent? And then the second she did that, Katie walked over and she goes, 'I actually don’t like that. I like them like this,'" Captain Sandy said. "She showed Courtney what she liked, and I really admired that."
The Below Deck Med boss said that she was also a fan of how Katie trained her stews to serve the charter guests during mealtime. "One of the things that she did — and I noticed — is she said, 'Who you serve is who you pick up from, and this is the way you walk around the table,'" Captain Sandy shared, adding that she felt like Katie instructed her stews "in a kind way" and "a team-building way."
Katie also appreciated that Captain Sandy gave her the space to lead. "I think, you know, she kind of let me do my own thing a lot. Like, some captains like to really micromanage, which is fine. It's just, you know, again, everyone's different. Everyone has a different management style," Katie said. "But she sort of left me to my own, which was good. But then was there with things [that] I did need or needed help with and support."
When it comes to her own leadership style, Katie said that she always hopes to motivate her stews to put "in the hard work" with her "and hope that, because of that, I get respect for it." Although, Katie admitted that working with her interior team this season "had its ups and downs." "You never know what you're gonna get," Katie said of meeting her stews this season, which, in addition to Courtney, includes second stew Lexi Wilson. "And you just have to push through."
Even chief stews feel the pressure, which we see in the trailer for this season of Below Deck Med, teasing tears from Katie at times. "When things are really happening and big decisions have to be made, I think, in this particular season, it really just got the better of me. And yeah, I am a really empathetic person. So there's definitely an emotional side," Katie shared some of what we'll see her go through this season. "I'm in a leadership role, but, f--k, I'm still human, you know? Like, I still struggle with things. I still have emotions. Things still affect me. Like, I'm not a robot."
She added that the long hours, lack of sleep, and partying during the crew's nights off led to some intense moments this season. "It's just a mixture of everything, you know. And you put everything together, it's a ticking time bomb," Katie said. "And everyone deals with things differently. So apparently, mine was crying."
Still, when it came to all of the chaos of the charter season, Captain Sandy thought that Katie was "a great diffuser" in those stressful situations. "I felt like she was the calm in the middle of a storm. No matter what was happening around her, I never saw her, like, out of control or show she was out of control or show any emotion other than 'I got this.' It was different for me," she explained. "Katie’s style was one of a professional chief stew, you know? Like, I just felt like, wow. She’s sort of a mentor leader. I don’t know. It was awesome. It was actually really cool to see."
Want more Below Deck Med? Season 6 airs Mondays at 9/8c on Bravo with early access to new episodes on Peacock.
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