'Below Deck's Chef Rachel on Returning for Season 9 and Her Unfinished Business With Eddie (Exclusive)
By Brice Sander
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Chef Rachel Hargrove came back to Below Deck with unfinished business: confronting Bosun (now First Officer) Eddie Lucas over comments he made on season 8 of the Bravo hit.
"Well, let's just put it this way: He is very lucky that I was in a tiny town in Italy," Rachel tells ET over video chat, reacting to remarks Eddie made about her last season, quotes she didn't hear until the episodes aired while she was in lockdown in Europe. Eddie didn't hold back last season, criticizing Rachel for being unprofessional (she quit the yacht for a night) and taking issue with her drunken antics on crew days off (for which she says she's never apologizing).
Now, the two are back as the only returning castmates (save for Captain Lee Rosbach) on season 9 -- with Eddie admitting to be scared to work with "bats**t crazy" Rachel again in the premiere episode.
"You know, what's really funny is, if bats**t crazy is good at their job and is a ride or die b***h, I'm cool with that one," Rachel cracks. "Like, I am my personality. It's never going to change, it doesn't matter."
"I'm not argumentative when it comes to things like that," she admits. "That's his belief. That's his personal views. We all have perceptions of other people and can be vindictive and bulls**t, but I'm totally cool with it. That's his -- at that moment in time -- that's his perception and that's how he felt."
Rachel is quick to point out what she finds to be hypocrisy on Eddie's part, referencing his own "bad behavior" from season 3, when he hooked up with stewardess Rocky Dakota in the crew laundry, while he had a girlfriend back home. "Trying to, like, gaslight and overlap the fact that he f**ked somebody in a laundry room with cameras all around him and then denied it in front of the cameras, too?" she notes.
Things are tense for the two at the start of season 9, but Rachel says it was important for her to clear the air with her co-star.
"Unfortunately it took a lot of asking to sit down and do it," Rachel teases. "It was one of those moments where was I just like, we really do need to like hash this out because it is affecting me. All of this is now coming to light just before we did the season. We need to discuss this. And how do you feel? Because I don't want to go through this season and all of a sudden, like, watch it and in retrospect, you're talking trash again. Or about anyone and gaslighting anyone, because I think it's unfair."
"Some people agree with my personality, some people don't," she adds. "I believe that you nip things in the bud very quickly, when it's appropriate time, but at the same time, too, have the respect for the other individual. Don't talk s**t behind their back, say it to their face, because they need to know because that's the only way they will actually get through it. And maybe it will change and maybe my approach with that individual will change."
Rachel says viewers will have to wait a beat to see that sit-down, and hints it didn't exactly go perfectly.
"I've been in yachting so long, I know how to fake it," she offers. "Professionally, I can always put things aside because at the end of the day, I want to make Captain Lee happy. I love him. I respect him. I love my job, actually, even though I say 'f**k this' multiple times. Ignore that."
At this point, Rachel says she and Eddie are co-workers, never friends. "That's the beauty of life, and that's the beauty of being an adult," she says. "Are we going to be BFFs? Are you still on all my social media handles? Maybe."
Eddie beef aside, Rachel is more than excited for viewers to experience season 9 of Below Deck.
"I feel like I'm back, better than ever," she proclaims. "It was a good do-over. ... Now, this go around, I actually get to enjoy it and I'm very happy to be in it, and psychologically there -- really stoked, privy to everything, not focused on things that are going on the outside of me."
Last season, Rachel was preoccupied with tension between herself and her then-boyfriend. The two have since split, with Rachel admitting her doing the show strained their relationship.
"All my friends are excited because they're like, 'Hey, s**t's not hitting the fan,'" she says of her return to TV. "I'm like, 'No, but it is... in a very good way.'"
From the sound of it, Rachel bonded with her season 9 crew more than the season 8 bunch. She professes her love for new chief stewardess Heather Chase -- she says the newbie is "better" than franchise fan-favorite Kate Chastain! "There's no throwing jabs," she says. "It's legit. She's actually passionate and in love with her job."
Rachel's also a fan of stew Fraser Olender, as well as deckhands Rayna Lindsay and Jake Foulger. "Jakey Poo! He's so funny. I think that -- I'm sorry, but I'm so glad he's on this season, 'cause it's not going to be me [causing problems] this whole time!" Rachel jokes.
Then there's Captain Sean Meagher, who fills in for Lee, whose arrival is delayed for at least one charter. In the premiere, Sean instills the fear of the sea gods in his crew, informing them that he's not one to correct behavior. Instead, he'll just fire team members who aren't up to his standards.
"I didn't get to sit through that, but the way he came off with me was, he was actually really funny," Rachel says of the temporary captain. "I love bantering with him. I love bantering with Lee, but they're two polar opposites. It's like comparing apples to oranges. They're not the same. My captain is Captain Lee, who's like the old, salty dog. And he's funny. And he's just very dry and quick-witted. And Sean is effervescent and peppy and a go-getter, but in a way where you're like, 'Jesus Christ, get this thing a Xanax.'"