Notable Neighbors: Chef Ben Robinson
A Flavor All His Own
For Chef Ben Robinson, food is a passion—one that started on the Cape in the kitchen with his mother and has since taken him around the world
“I was 5 years old when I first realized I was interested in cooking,” says Chef Ben Robinson. “I had an amazing relationship with my mother, and she taught me to cook. I knew all of my mother’s sauces—gravy, béchamel and vinaigrette—by the time I was five and a half.”
Cooking has taken Chef Ben all over the world—by plane, boat, and television screens as the executive chef on Bravo’s hit series “Below Deck.” But beyond his career, food is also what connects him to his family, to his friends and colleagues, and to Cape Cod.
“Growing up on Cape Cod gave me an amazing set of arrows for my quiver,” says Chef Ben. “We would dig for clams on the beach, catch striped bass and eels off the dock in North Bay, and find bluefish in The Cut. It was just an amazing experience.” Chef Ben spent his years at boarding school in England, but he never missed a summer on the Cape growing up.
Chef Ben describes his father, the famed author of “Lone Survivor,” as a somewhat larger-than-life figure—“like growing up with Winston Churchill at the head of the family,” he jokes. With four children in the home, and 5-year-old Ben taking charge of the oven, his father provided some necessary structure, and of course instilled in his family a love for the Cape. “My dad’s property on Point Isabella is just a gem. I don’t think I could have my own Cape home while that house is still in the family—I’m too competitive,” says Chef Ben with his distinct, contagious laugh, something fans of “Below Deck” would recognize.
Chef Ben credits his time in England with giving him an appreciation for a whole other side to cuisine, introducing him to unique vegetation, fowl and river fish to round out his more Cape-based knowledge of shellfish and seafood. “My experiences on the Cape were very opposing to my incredibly rural upbringing in England, where we had orchards and vegetable gardens and a river,” he explains. “It’s just so different from the Cape. It was quite a privilege from a culinary standpoint to have these two opposing forces, and it’s interesting now that this is my profession, when in my formative years it was really such a privilege.”
In his late 20s, Ben was the head chef on Athena, a gaff-rigged schooner owned by James Clark—the largest sailing yacht in the world. With 28 crew members to cook for and only one sous-chef, he quickly grew accustomed to the fast-paced life of yachting. “When 2008 hit, I was actually trying to get out of yachting, but I decided to get back on a boat. I found this advertisement for ‘Below Deck,’ so I applied—I’m not going to lie, I’d had a couple of drinks,” Chef Ben says with a laugh. “I wrote them this rather funny email, and the rest is history.”
Chef Ben’s now completed five seasons of “Below Deck” to date. “It’s different cooking for television cameras. When I first had the camera on me, I was bloody nervous. I actually cut my finger—just a little nick on my index,” he recalls with a laugh. “It was like having an AK47 pointed at me, and all these surrounding cameras as well.” He quickly realized, though, that having such an active, demanding job on the boat kept him distracted from the nerve-wracking challenges of reality television. “I liken myself to a housewife,” he jokes.
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