'Below Deck's Chef Rachel Hargrove Has No Regrets About Season 8 -- Not Even When She Quit! (Exclusive)

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With three words, Rachel Hargrove launched herself into the reality TV hall of fame: "Eat my cooter." The Below Deck chef uttered that unexpected phrase just seconds before quitting her job on motor yacht My Seanna in a huff, totally turned off by an upcoming charter’s guest preference sheets, which demanded a list of meals that would make the double-digit page offerings of the Cheesecake Factory’s menu look underwhelming.

"I just paid rent with Cameos telling people to eat my cooter!" Rachel admits with a laugh, video chatting with ET from her home in Italy. "Who knew?! I reached down in the depths for that one. I dusted it off and went, here you go."

Rachel’s colorful catchphrases and crude humor have made her a breakout star of season 8 of the Bravo series, which she never left, despite quitting. She returned to the yacht less than 24 hours after walking off of it, pleading with Captain Lee Rosbach to let her finish out the charter season.

"I didn't really want to leave Captain Lee hanging," she says of ultimately her changing her mind. "I just needed a breather and needed to walk off and take a second. Especially for everything that was happening to process it. That was one of the craziest sheets I've seen in my life. And then, I'm running as a sole chef? But it really was, I didn’t want to disappoint him."

Rachel, however, does not regret leaving the crew for the night. She says there was more happening behind the scenes that influenced her decision, as news of the coronavirus pandemic was just starting to make its way to the cast, and her boyfriend at the time, Vincenzo, (yes, they’ve since split) was living in the early epicenter, Italy.

"It's a lot of stress when you got all those cameras in your face constantly," she notes. That became evident when Rachel looked a camera down its lens to tell the production team watching the live feed, "In your best interest, I really think you should f**king call your hounds. That’s not cool. So, get the f**k out." She then flipped the bird to the camera mounted in her cabin.

Rachel’s temporary leave didn’t sit well with her fellow crew, though, especially Bosun Eddie Lucas, who has repeatedly spoken about his frustration with Rachel leaving the team hanging in confessional interviews on the show.

"It was funny to me, ‘cause I was like, just tell me," Rachel says. She had no idea Eddie was feeling that way about her, because he never said it to her face.

"I'm the kind of person who you have to just lay your cards on the table," she continues. "For him to go on to social media and go onto other interviews and carry it over after a year, I was actually surprised. I was like, you took that to heart, didn't ya? It wasn't like I took a dump in his Cheerios. I don’t understand why he's crying about it now."

Rachel says she owns every part of who she is, living life unapologetically. That includes her alcohol-induced antics that pepper the crew’s days and nights out on the show. On the most recent episode, Rachel commandeered a microphone at a beach club to “sing” with the house band. A few nights before, she wandered away from a crew dinner to hang out with what appeared to be strangers across the restaurant.

"That's normal," Rachel says of what some might find odd behavior. "There's a dynamic that goes into being with a crew, and certain crew members, I learned to separate myself completely from them. So, there is no drama."

Basically, Rachel says, she "acts out" to get some time away from the people she’s been stuck in close quarters with for weeks on end.

"I'm not one of those people who backtrack and try to go, 'Oh, I didn’t do that...' Meanwhile, there's eight cameras in your face and seven up in the ceiling," she remarks. "So it’s like, you know, OK, no. I'm gonna own it. It is what it is."

Rachel owns her part in the drama aboard My Seanna, too, especially when it comes to the battle between chief stewardess Francesca Rubi and her third-turned-second-turned-third-again stew, Elizabeth Frankini. Again, she's unapologetic about getting involved.

"For me, supporting another crew member who feels like they are being bullied and attacked? I'm gonna stand by them," she shares, hinting that there’s more to the Francesca/Elizabeth saga than has made it to TV.

"There's a lot more," she promises. "It’s kind of weird, too, because … we didn’t even film six weeks. This was all condensed, because we had to wrap up because of the pandemic. Like, everything that we do and film, we're doing this 24 hours a day. … There's a lot of footage."

"There was a lot of unnecessary, derogatory remarks made to that specific individual," Rachel says of Elizabeth. "Whether she's capable of doing her job or not doesn’t matter. No one wants that direction of derogatory remarks that will hurt or harm them, which will make them worse at their job anyway."

Overall, though, Rachel sees her freshman run on Below Deck as a win, making good friends (she’s now pals with the charter guests whose preference sheets drove her to quit and calls Dolores, the woman who jumped off the boat much to Captain Lee’s dismay, her “spirit animal”) and proving her worth as a chef. She’s the first person to run a galley on the show whose food has never come into question. When asked if she’d return for season 9, she quickly lets out a, "Yeah! Let’s do it."

Below Deck airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.

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