Chef, reality television star and Tampa Bay native — Adrienne Gang is all of these things.
Gang appears on Below Deck, the new Bravo reality TV series (airing Mondays at 10 p.m.) about the trials and tribulations of working for rich clientele aboard a mega-yacht. Gang works as a head stewardess with a group of other boating enthusiasts, aka “yachties.” It’s a hard job, but Gang is built for it.
Her road to the big screen was a combination of hard work and fortuitous synchronicity.
Gang discovered an interest in cooking during high school when she worked for Panera Bread. She took classes at Hillsborough Community College and developed a flair for specialized cooking.
“I work a lot with people who have restricted diets, like Atkins and also people who suffer celiac disease or diabetes,” Gang says.
Gang eventually landed a job as the house chef at the Ford Amphitheater, where her creative menus were a perfect fit for touring artists.
“Musicians need light meals,” she says. “But they also have to be high-energy and easy to eat on the go.”
Gang’s two-year stint caught the attention of visiting musicians, and Gang soon found a new vocation as a touring chef.
While her clientele list is mostly under lock and key — “I have some very insistent clients — she does acknowledge cooking for country music star Kenny Chesney and the progressive rock ensemble the Tran-Siberian Orchestra. In conjunction with touring, Gang also began taking jobs on yachts.
“Being on yachts is really where I got to experiment with foods,” she says. “And working out of Tampa I found myself branching into the role of yacht stewardess.”
Being a yachtie is a tough gig, even for someone with Gang’s resume.
“The learning curve is huge. While you’re cooking you have to learn how to do all these new things — how to clean certain types of expensive clothing material, or how to clean certain types of artwork."
She’s worked as a yachtie in Tampa Bay and positive word of mouth caught the attention of Below Deck’s producers. They offered her a role and a promotion to head stewardess. Even though it meant more work and higher stress, Gang seized the opportunity.
The show became a surprise hit, garnering over a million viewers on its premiere. There are moments where it isn’t all jam and Jerusalem (“Episode Three had some cringe-worthy moments for me”), but Gang has no regrets.
“It has superseded any expectations I had,” she says. “I’m really proud of it.”
Gang is currently enjoying a much-needed vacation in her Tampa home as well as a chance to enjoy some of her favorite local food spots.
“Ceviche is one of my favorites,” she says. “I love Spanish tapas and they have great sangria. I also love Island Way Grill. If I could start a religion, I would center it around their flourless chocolate cake.”