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Home » Chef Kiko Is Living His Best Life After Leaving ‘Below Deck Med’ [Exclusive]
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Chef Kiko Is Living His Best Life After Leaving ‘Below Deck Med’ [Exclusive]

On the latest episode we learned that it’s official, Chef Kiko officially left Below Deck Mediterranean, and let’s just say he is handling it a whole lot better than most of the viewers. When I jumped on a Zoom call with the sweet Brazilian boss of the galley, he was admittedly moved by all the positive support he’s gotten from viewers of the Bravo show. “I really appreciate it,” he said from the small room on the boat where he’s currently working. “I’m very surprised, I’ve never had this in my life. So many nice comments about my personality, about my food. I can’t lie, I feel amazing! Now I feel good!”

It’s going to take us some time to wipe away our tears and process the news of his departure, but hearing how happy he is now is a start. Here, we discuss everything from those damn nachos, his sweet friendship with chief stew Hannah Ferrier, and why the day he left he felt like he “could breathe” again.

Decider: First, tell me a little bit about where you are now. What have you been up to? 

Chef Kiko: Right now, I just arrived in Martinique. I’m working on a catamaran, which is going to do a round trip around the world. Yeah, for two years. I got this contract with them. I’m going to meet with the owner tomorrow. He seems like a pretty nice person, a very adventurous person. He wants to discover the whole world with this boat. So I’m pretty excited and pretty happy. Also, me and my girlfriend [Nicole], we got the same job together. Seeing the world with my girlfriend, it’s just a dream.

This boat actually doesn’t have just one captain, they have two or three captains. I know two of them, they are brothers. They won the record of a world trip on a sailing yacht. I’m even learning how to sail. They are giving me tips. Because I really like to be part of the crew, not just in the galley. I’m actually learning other things. Sailing, it’s amazing.

That’s great! Let’s talk a little bit about the show. Should we start with 72 plates? Because that was so crazy and so impressive. Tell me a little bit about that experience from your point of view. Looking back on that, were you just like, “I can’t believe I accomplished that”?

When this came to me, I saw it much more as a challenge. Because if I failed that time, it would be completely understandable. I’m just one person. I was also cooking for the crew and trying to prepare this as well. I was pretty confident in that moment. I didn’t even think about how it felt when I was cooking. I was just excited to put out the plates and try my best. In my mind, I was thinking, “If I fail, at least I tried my best. And I can prove myself. If I do great, I can prove to myself that I’m good enough.” So the feeling was amazing. But to be honest, I didn’t think that I would fail in that dinner. I was pretty comfortable because they let me do it my style. But then when they said it’s twelve [people], then it got a little bit scary. But I said, “Well, if I do it, I’m going to kill it. So let’s do it.” Why am I going to complain? I just have to accept. If I complain, nothing’s going to change. So you just have to do it. Try.

You always said your main goal is to please the guests and make sure that the guests are having a great time and have great food. Did you feel when you were working your aim was still to please the guests? Or were you trying harder to please Captain Sandy, who was always kind of looking over your shoulder?

I was trying to do both. I didn’t just want the guests happy, I wanted everybody happy. I was just thinking about trying to do my best and making everyone like me and my food. That’s really me. That’s how I work on a boat as well, with my crew, with my captains. I always try to be kind. It’s smart to be kind. Always, you’re going to need people somehow at some point in your life. Why not be nice to people? And when you need help, maybe you’ll have the help.

Do you think that Captain Sandy gave you a fair shot? 

I completely understand, during the first charter or the second one, she was looking and everything. Because it’s a responsibility for a captain, to let everything organize and [make sure] the crew is working well. But after a while I felt like she really didn’t trust me that much. I didn’t have that with other captains. Usually, with other captains, they just let me cook. If the guests complain, after the charter they come and say, “Hey, Kiko. This is not good. You need to improve on that and do this.” But not be in the moment saying stuff, like, “Ah, are you going to do this again? Are you sure about it?” Because that made me confused. I really really like her, because she was awesome with me. Of course, I’m not perfect. And I’m never going to be perfect. So after I did a couple mistakes, then she changed completely. Then I started to question myself: am I good enough? That’s the thing that crushed me, totally crushed me in the end. Because I started to question myself. I didn’t have any ideas for what to make anymore. My food is all about expression. If I’m happy and I’m feeling loved, you’re going to feel that in the food. But if you put me down, I’m going to do shit. I’m not a robot. I’m not a machine. I have feelings. So if I feel bad, you’re going to feel it in the food, unfortunately.

Have you learned any ways to help pick yourself up after you feel down about something?

Yeah, I learned to not care too much about what people are going to think about me. Don’t listen much to others, just listen to my mind. Do what I think is right. That’s the biggest lesson that I think I’ll take from the show. Just be more confident. Many times, I wasn’t confident. You really freak out. When I stepped inside of the show, I was already thinking, “Oh, if I do this, or if I do that, people are going to go to my Instagram saying bad things.” End of my career, or something like that.

From a viewer perspective, I have only seen people love and appreciate and really admire the food that you’ve made so far. I think they really enjoy having you on the show, too. The vibe is very positive.

It was very scary in the beginning. When the show started, I was like, man. I’m not going to finish the show. I was thinking even about deleting my social media because I don’t like to see bad energy. When I feel bad energy, I just get out. I don’t like it.

Speaking of bad energy, one of the moments I really loved was when you told Hannah to keep an eye on Bugsy. I thought that that was a nice move by you. You weren’t involving yourself in the drama, but you were giving her a heads up. Can you tell me a little bit about your friendship with Hannah? 

I told Hannah that because I don’t like this on a crew or a work group. I don’t know if Bugs really meant that because we never spoke about this after the show. That felt a little bit like, you don’t need to order limes, I felt like that’s not nice. You were hired as a second, so still do your job as a second. I don’t think that’s right in a workplace and that’s why I told Hannah. It could be any person. Even a person that I don’t like. I would say because I don’t think that’s fair.

Hannah, since I met her, I just felt something that I usually feel with my best friends. Just from the moment I said hi. I’ve never watched the show before, so I don’t know what was her relationship with other people. Since I met her, our conversations were nice. We laugh, we make jokes. Just good. She’s a good person. I like her. We’re still friends after the show.

So let’s talk about the Vegas theme. Do you have any regrets about listening to her when she gave you her thoughts on some of the menu items?

No, I put that totally on me. You know why? It’s because she was trying to help. She saw I was lost. She saw I was already questioning myself. I didn’t have any, like, “What the hell? I’ve never been to Vegas. What is Vegas?” That was my mistake. I’m the chef. In a chef position, you should decide if you’re going to do it. I should listen to myself. That’s why I’m saying, the biggest lesson of the show was like, do not listen to people anymore. Just do what is in my mind. If it’s bad in the end, at least it was in my mind. It’s not someone’s opinion or someone’s idea. I put it on me. She was just trying to help.

She said to me, “Kiko, Sandy is coming to me so be careful with her.” But she said, “I want to help you, honey. So do this and that.” Alright, but this will look like very shitty food. When I finished, I knew it was shit. Those nachos, I’m sorry, those were horrible. I didn’t have the right cheese. I don’t want to complain, but that was horrible.

Do you think that you’ll ever eat nachos again?

Oh yeah. I love nachos!

Are you now more familiar with Vegas?

Yeah, I went there this year with [my girlfriend] Nicole. I didn’t go to Michelin star restaurants because I don’t like to spend that much money. [Laughs] I’m not rich. So we spent exactly one night, we were doing a camper van retreat. We stopped there and after we went to the Grand Canyon — that place is amazing.

Tell me a little bit about your decision to leave the boat. Was it hard for you to make that decision? Did you feel at peace with it? Any regrets? 

I just got sad. I think that moment, I cried a lot. I was thinking about what people would say about me, that I didn’t do my best. But I think it was the time to leave. I wasn’t happy anymore. I would even do more mistakes because I was already sad. People were questioning my food. It’s not like this on the yachts that I work. It’s always people love what I do, they love my food. I cooked for very important people before and I never got people complaining about my food. So everything bad was happening for the first time in the show, with cameras. That was like, man — that’s too much. The day that I left, the last day, [it felt like] I took a rock off my back and I could breathe. That day, I was so happy. I was leaving the boat, but I was so happy. I was like, “Woah! I’m going to hit the surf and eat good food, man. Not going to cook for a month right now.” [Laughs]

You knew you made the right decision. Every single person from the show has just had nothing but wonderful things to say about you. Have you stayed in touch with most of them? 

Oh yeah. Jess is a very good friend of mine, Hannah is a good friend of mine. Alex, we met in Hawaii for drinks. We got drunk together. Rob, we text sometimes on Instagram. Pete, I didn’t see him anymore. We don’t talk too much. Malia, we speak sometimes on Instagram. Captain Sandy, we don’t speak anymore. [Laughs] I don’t have anything against her as a person. I just think it was a work moment. And that’s it. What is bad, we left behind. Everything’s going so well for me. I don’t regret anything. The show was amazing.

You have introduced a lot of the world to your specialty, moqueca. In making it for the show and having people learn about it, have you changed your recipe? Have you added new ingredients or jazzed it up? 

Moqueca you can always change a little bit. Each person has their own moqueca, because it’s about the love and flavor you put in. But I got my recipe, I put in my cookbook so people can also learn and see. The thing I was doing with moqueca a lot was just representing my country. Of course I love a lot of things. But the moqueca, to me, it’s something familiar. My grandmother taught me how to make moqueca, and my mother so many times when I was a kid. It’s my way to express my love for food. And I think, for somebody who is not Brazilian, it’s exotic. I did it a lot, but I never do moqueca in the same charter. I don’t see a problem with that, to serve moqueca every charter. It’s my culture. I know how to do Mediterranean style, sushi, whatever, but I need to show something different.

Have you learned any vegan dishes since the show?

[Laughs] My girlfriend, she loves vegan food and vegetarian. She’s like, “Oh, now you must learn to cook for me!” Because she doesn’t eat too much steak. And I love steak so much. I’m so sorry, I know cows are very cute, but it’s my culture, guys. I was born eating barbeque Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Three times a week. So how can I not like it? Vegan people, I’m telling you. They’re coming to me sad that I said the things on the show, but what I have to tell everyone is that I love vegan food as well. I just never worked with a vegan chef. I never had an opportunity to learn vegan fancy food. Vegan, for me, is vegetables, pasta, risotto without butter and cheese. I was lost. I will learn! I will learn more.

Was there anything else that you want people to know about you and your time on the show? 

Basically, what is on the show is Kiko. And I just wish everyone didn’t see just my mistakes, they see also the good things that I did on the show. Just be kind with people. Just love. That’s what I have to say to the world. Man, just love each other. Love the people in front of you. Do good things to have a better world.

Below Deck Mediterranean airs Monday at 9pm ET/PT on Bravo. 

Where to stream Below Deck Mediterranean

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