‘Below Deck Sailing Yacht’s’ Daisy Kelliher Is the Best Chief Stew
“You’ll have to bear with me,” offers Daisy Kelliher in her canorous Irish accent. “I’m in Antigua on a very small sailboat.”
I’m on a Zoom call with Daisy, indefatigable chief stewardess of Parsifal III on Below Deck Sailing Yacht, who’s on a sailboat sitting on a small bed in a tiny cabin — not unlike the ones she rooms in on the hit series. But Daisy’s not on the job. She’s in the midst of a two-and-a-half-week vacation with her parents that will take them to Antigua and then to Saint Martin.
Daisy hails from a yachting family — both her parents were yachties — and has not only emerged as the star of Below Deck Sailing Yacht, whose fourth season is now airing on Bravo and Peacock, but is also, in this writer’s opinion, the finest chief stew in Below Deck history (with apologies to Hannah Ferrier, whose Below Deck Med tenure was cruelly cut short by Captain Sandy the Narc).
Season Four of Sailing Yacht welcomes the return of Captain Glenn, the chilliest captain in the Below Deck universe; Gary, the horniest deckhand (now first officer) you’ve ever met; Colin, the laid-back engineer, who’s now single; and a number of newbies aboard the 54-meter superyacht, which guests can charter for over $250,000 a week (plus expenses). The series follows the crew over the course of summer’s six-week high season, as they wait on their spoiled, needy guests hand and foot, catering to their every whim — be it espresso martinis, jet skis, tendering to a private island, you name it. As chief stew, Daisy oversees the yacht service, from cleaning up the cabins, to serving guests food and wine, to washing and dry-cleaning their (usually tacky) clothes. None other than Steven Soderbergh counts himself a huge fan of the Below Deck series.
During the first two episodes of its fourth season, Parsifal is stuck at the dock in Sardinia, Italy, due to engine trouble, much to the guests’ chagrin, and Gary is stuck in a hotel room with Covid. Thankfully, Colin comes to the rescue, fixing the engine and effectively salvaging the season. With the boat sidelined, Daisy is forced into overdrive, serving the female guests a seemingly endless number of espresso martinis. After the charter, she celebrates by getting plastered and making out with Alex, a hunky new deckhand, during a game of truth or dare.
“I’m proud to have come out alive,” Daisy says. (Still, she’d be happy to do it again.)
Rolling Stone caught up with Daisy to discuss Season Four of Below Deck Sailing Yacht and what makes the show so damn addictive.
Congrats on a new season of Below Deck Sailing Yacht. What compelled you to return?
[Laughs] Ah, yeah, that’s a good question! I have a love/hate relationship with the whole experience, but the positives outweigh the negatives. Overall, I have a really good time. The third time’s the charm. I do question why I keep going back, but I do enjoy the whole process. We’re blessed in the way it’s not a normal job. Other jobs you need to give a year, two-year commitment, but I just come in for six weeks, deal with the chaos, you know there’s a timeline, and that keeps you going. And it’s rewarding to overcome the challenges. At the end of it you’re like, wow, we did that. We worked all those hours, on all those hangovers, dealt with all those crazy guests. It’s satisfying at the end of it.
How are you able to maintain such poise and calm in the face of such bratty guest behavior? You’re very good at saving your real reaction for behind closed doors, away from them.
A lot of people say this to me, and it wasn’t until the show that it really got highlighted, but I do have a really good poker face. For me, it just felt normal. I’m at work. It’s my job to put a smile on my face and make these people feel comfortable. I’ve worked in hospitality since I was 16 — working in cafés, shops, and then studied hotel management and worked in hotels, boats — so I’m like, “Don’t you always have to be nice to people at your job?” But it turns out, no, it’s a specific skill to have.
I’ve always wondered if you all actually get any good sleep in those tiny bunks. You’re so crammed together, and the beds look so small.
I love the tiny bunks! I have slept in tiny bunks now for so long that I don’t sleep that well in my big bunk. I like the company. It took a little while to get used to when I first joined boats, but it’s been so long now — even to the point of liking the comfort of having someone else breathe. I now have an apartment in London, but when I used to go on holiday, rent a hotel room, and stay in the bed by myself, I really, really would struggle to sleep. It’s all about habits. I went to boarding school as well, and shared a room at times with my sister, so it was really nothing unusual for me.
Are you stew-ing year-round, or what do you do the other 46 weeks of the year for work?
The first two seasons of Below Deck I did chief stew-ing, so I would freelance. This year, I’m taking more of a break, settling into my apartment in London, and spending more time with family and friends. I’m always open to the work if people need help. It’s super easy for me to hop on a boat for a couple of weeks and chief stew, but I’m trying to do less of it as I get older.
So, Parsifal crashed into a dock in Season Two and ran aground in Season Three. What’s the wildest shit to happen this season?
The first couple of episodes we don’t leave the dock, and that continues throughout the season. There are periods where the engine keeps acting up, and we’re left wondering if we’ll ever leave the dock. We also almost drag anchor again and crash into another boat. [Laughs] But luckily, this year, I think it was a little more smooth sailing — no pun intended — than other years.
That guy Marcus last season, the obnoxious one who compared Marcos’s food to “ballpark” food, was maybe the worst guest I’ve ever seen on Below Deck.
Yeah. It’s never nice to experience something like that, but a part of me kind of enjoys it as well. I’m like, “Ugh, why do I have to deal with this shit?” Then you think, “You know what? This is actually kind of entertaining..” But in the moment, it was intimidating. I was shaking, and I’m not easily intimidated at all. It was one of those situations, though, where it’s like, “This is a you problem, not a me problem.”
Are Trumpers from Florida usually the worst guests, or was it just that guy?
[Laughs] No, most of the guests are really nice. Even the bad ones are really not that bad. The majority of the time, they’re at each other if there’s something negative. It’s very rare that it’s directed at me personally. This season was more smooth sailing, but there are definitely some interesting guests.
I’m personally very impressed by your ability to party so hard and then maintain such a high degree of professionalism on very little sleep.
Everyone has their skills and their qualities. Some people are really mathematical. Some people are good at languages. Some people are good at time management. I’m just really good at partying and being professional. [Laughs] I’m Irish so I can tolerate my alcohol, and I’m a really good drunk — I’m not a negative drunk, and it has quite a positive effect on me. I handle my hangovers well. But I definitely do still stuffer. It’s not like I’m chirpy and all that. But it’s work. I’m a millennial and we don’t know anything else. We’re like, it’s work time!
There’s this great line you had last season that was something to the effect of, “I’m adorable when I’m drunk, but you guys are disasters.”
[Laughs] It’s a funny thing — and this is in my personal life as well. I went to dinner the other night and I had four margaritas and a half a bottle of wine, and I got up at 5:00 a.m. this morning to go on an eight-hour flight. My friend texted me being like, “You look so fresh. You’re a freak. I’ve been throwing up all day.” I was like, “What! I could’ve run a 10K. That’s nothing for me. It’s like water.” Everyone else seems to be a hot mess, but I’m usually OK.
During the Season Three reunion the game of “fuck, marry, kill” you all played was brought up, and Colin had this funny response where he said, “Nobody wants to bang Colin.” But this is the first time we’ve seen single Colin on the loose. What was single Colin like?
He’s still very reserved. He’s not quite like Gary, who will hit on anything and plays a different kind of game. Colin is just a little bit more geeky and has a bit less game. He’s still pretty respectful. But you do see more of his personality this season. He faces more challenges than he’s had to in past seasons. I think Colin does OK on his own. There’s only enough room on the boat for one Gary.
During the season preview, they tease that there’s a love triangle of sorts between you, Gary, and Colin. Are they misleading us or what transpired there?
Definitely something does transpire. It’s not so much of a tease. There’s definitely a lot in there to unpack, and you’re going to see it from the middle of the season through to the end. It’s complicated because we’re all single people, we’ve all been friends for a long time, we’re all a similar age and have similar interests. It’s kind of inevitable that there’s going to be complicated situations. I don’t want to give too much away. I’m dreading it, but it will be fun for people at home to watch.
It seems Gary gets quite jealous and in his feelings over it?
Yeah. I think it’s a shock to everyone, to be honest. Including myself. I’m like, uh, you’ve had two years to hit on me and you haven’t. I don’t know why he’s jealous. But you’ll see when you watch the season.
How can you explain Gary’s broad appeal? And also, how tall is he?
[Laughs] Well, height-wise, he mustn’t be much taller than me. I’m 5’7”, so he’s probably 5’9”. He is very charming. Whether people like it or not, people are drawn to a big character, a big presence. It doesn’t always last, and people tend to settle for more genuine people with kinder hearts, but that initial attraction and spark — it’s not a cliché even to like the bad boy, the jock, whoever it is. That presence. And Gary definitely has that. He can make you feel like the only girl in the room, although he does that to so many girls. Unfortunately, that does wear off, and I think people are catching on to his pattern.
How would you characterize your and Gary’s relationship?
A flirty, platonic relationship. I think, at times, that flirtiness crosses over into something more complicated. Gary’s a flirty person, I’m a flirty person, and there are moments where we kiss because it gets confusing when you’re flirting with someone you’re very close to. Whether there’s something more there? I don’t think so. We’re living separate lives, and also for me it’s just a flirty, platonic relationship. I’ve seen too much and learned too much. If I hadn’t learned that, maybe we would have hooked up and something else would have transpired.
Are you conflicted about the chaos Gary sows in your department? Because he’s always hooking up with all the stews and pitting them against each other, and then you have to pick up the pieces. And what do you warn your stews about Gary?
Last season, I kind of warned Scarlett and I feel like that got thrown back in my face. This season, I’ve taken the approach of just staying out of it. A part of me does lose a lot of respect for Gary for doing that. I don’t respect people who make other people’s jobs harder. I really struggled all three seasons, and there have been times where it hasn’t been aired. The first season was the worst, the second season was a little bit better, and the third season was a little bit better, but certainly it does make me lose respect for him a bit. I’m at the point where it’s like, I voice my opinion, and I don’t think it’s OK to treat colleagues like that, women like that, and especially me like that. But I’ve voiced it and he chooses not to listen, so I’ve chosen to not really let it affect me.
He’s not as bad as Jean-Luc at least.
[Laughs] I at least enjoy Gary’s company.
Is that the craziest thing to happen on Below Deck Sailing Yacht, at least during your seasons — the whole Jean-Luc and Dani pregnancy saga?
For me, it was definitely the wildest, most shocking, most serious thing. I didn’t see that coming. When they hooked up to begin with, I was shocked. I was like, “Really? This is where you want to go?!” And then fast-forward and there’s a baby involved. Dani and Lilly are doing great, but that was pretty mental.
Last season, there was all this territorial beefing between Ashley and Gabriela. Looking back on the footage, do you wish you would have handled that dynamic differently? And do you regret symbolically promoting Ashley last season to lead stew? It was this weird season-long campaign of undermining Gabriela by Ashley.
No, I wouldn’t change anything. I did the best I could, and you see ten percent of what actually happens. It was a very complicated season for different reasons. The girls made my life very difficult — both of them did — and I didn’t appreciate that. It’s up to me to make their job easier, and it’s up to them to make my job easier, and they didn’t. With regard to promoting Ashley, I don’t regret it. It was in no way to make her feel better. I asked for certain requirements, she gave them back, so I followed through with that. I didn’t know the extent that she was undermining Gabriela, but Gabriela was also at times not the easiest person to work with. I learned from it, and this season I didn’t promote either stew. I made them both juniors. This season, they always came in with a smile, and there was no manipulating, and they had my back, so I was really happy with my team this year.
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What do you think is the appeal of Below Deck? I was talking to the director Steven Soderbergh about this, who like myself is a big fan of the series, and I think it was to do with this unique mixture of teamwork, travel and food porn, conflict resolution, and class conflict. And it’s through the perspective of workers.
I think it’s incredibly relatable for a lot of people. There’s something for everybody. So many people come up to me and go, “This is the first show my husband and I can watch together.” You’ve got the travel aspect, the cooking, the relationships, the guests, the service, the boats, all the different nationalities, and you’ve got the real-life work experience. Most people have worked in hospitality at some stage, or can relate to it in some sense. When I used to watch the show before I was on it, we would pause it and then talk for forty minutes about a scene and how we would have done it differently. I think it’s one of the more relatable reality-TV shows that’s out there.
Have you seen Triangle of Sadness?
I haven’t. I’ll have to watch it though!
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