Spoiler alert: "It's never too early to start drinking."
When you think of The Bachelor and its rose-colored off-shoots, you probably imagine a world where white wine flows like a waterfall of way-too-early declarations of love. And, well, you would be right, though the food and alcohol situation on the show are much more nuanced than just the uneaten entrees abandoned during dates and glasses clinking at all hours. For starters, there’s breakfast. Contestants on the show typically spend about three episodes (a few days, in real time) at Bachelor Mansion in Agoura Hills, California, before packing their suitcases to travel around the country and around the world. On the road, foods vary depending on the destination. While at the Mansion, though, contestants are responsible for cooking all their own meals and, yes, even pouring their own Chardonnay.
“On our season, Renee did most of the cooking,” Cassandra Ferguson says of fellow mom-testant Renee Oteri (now Maynard) from Season 18 of The Bachelor. “Honestly, she was one of the only girls who knew how to cook, and she was the best by far.”
Oteri remembers cooking for everyone on her season, all the time. “I just kind of fell into the house chef position because I already had a kid,” Oteri says of adapting her a.m. routine to the setting. “I’d get up at 6 a.m. and make breakfast at home and did the same at the house. I was always first up. I’d go down and make coffee, and I wasn’t going to cook just for myself, so I made food for everyone. And that caught on.”
One time, on a particularly memorable episode, Bachelor Juan Pablo Galavis showed up at the house while the girls were still waking up, and started cooking them breakfast. Oteri helped him cook arepas, the dish beloved in his native Venezuela, while the other girls shrieked and rushed to cover their un-made-up faces. “It was really delicious,” Oteri remembers, “and covered in cheese.”
The supplies for gourmet meals are endless on the show, with fully stocked pantries and fridges and even a dedicated candy and sweets section of the house that Oteri swears was responsible for all the girls gaining “like 20 pounds or something.” If there’s a food contestants want that isn’t already in the fridge, the handlers head out to the store to pick up ingredients.
Once the girls added items to the list on her season, Ferguson went through and dropped the word “organic” in front of all their produce requests. Organic fruits and vegetables were stuffed into the blender daily for her super healthy, super popular green smoothies. “They’re delicious and you can’t taste the green stuff. Plus, total hangover cure,” she says.
Ordering through handlers is always the way contestants get their food needs. But not everyone had such an easy time getting their requests. Courtney Robertson, the winner/villain of Season 16 of The Bachelor recalls a time when she was in Utah and requested kombucha, among other things. “The producers were like ‘sure, we just need your credit card.’ So, I gave it to them and got hand lotion and all sorts of other awesome stuff from Whole Foods,” she recalls. “But it was the first time someone was like ‘uh, that’s not part of the deal’ in so many words.”
Chad Johnson, who was constantly filmed eating his body weight in cold cuts on The Bachelorette Season 12 (2016), had a little trouble getting his goods on JoJo’s season, too. “I brought a suitcase of protein shake stuff because I knew I wouldn’t be able to work out enough like I do at home and I wanted to stay lean,” the controversial fitness freak says of his maligned carry-on. When he requested powdered peanut butter (“It has one-fourth the calories!”), it took several days for handlers to bring back what he wanted.
Apart from the powdered-food goods and rolled turkey breast slices, Johnson filled up on chicken and steak for every meal, even sharing with other contestants. “I cooked steak probably 3-4 times a day. And they were big, like 12 ounces, so I’d share with the other guys,” he remembers. “I started throwing on extra meat because the guys loved it. But it was so weird: The cameras would roll and they’d fight with me and act like I was an asshole. I was like, ‘Wait dude, I just made you chicken! I cooked you breakfast, bro!’”
On the road, food comes mostly from in-room services, carts rolled into the suites in the early morning, and special dietary needs dishes separated by the kitchen in advance. Dates in foreign countries often lead to the best food discoveries, like Oteri’s date in Vietnam, where she tasted dragon fruit for the first time while cruising a morning market with the Bachelor.
On Robertson’s season, they didn’t spend any time at the Mansion, going wheels up from the start and heading to a house in Sonoma. There, fellow contestant Casey Shteamer whipped up bloody marys for all the contestants. “Those things were dangerous,” Robertson remembers.
“Elyse [Myers] and I asked for some bloody mary mix, and they got us some regular mix from the grocery store, which was great, but not as exciting as in San Fran the next week,” Shteamer says. “In SF, at the first hotel stop of the season, we mentioned that we’d love a bloody, and to our shock, 10 minutes later, off the elevator comes a silver bar cart with the most gorgeous bloody mary bar you’d ever seen.”
Drinking in the morning is pretty standard for contestants, especially at the Mansion on the first few episodes, when most days are spent not dating the Bachelor or Bachelorette, and hanging at home instead. While not everyone drank in the morning, there’s one rule that guides all: “It’s never too early to start drinking at Bachelor Mansion,” Oteri says.
Season 10 Bachelorette contestant J.J. O’Brien talked about one memorable morning: “The first morning of our season, we went into the kitchen after the Rose Ceremony and there were mimosas and bloodys waiting for us at 7 a.m. We had been up all night. For all of us that weren’t on the 1-on-1 date that day, it turned into one hell of a sausage fest pool party, with lots of booze, outdoor naps, and even Craig [Muhlbauer] jumping off the balcony and into the pool by 1 p.m.”
And with all the drinking comes plenty of hangovers. Ferguson’s smoothies did the trick sometimes on her season, but most of the time, girls were “pounding coffee” from the Keurig that showed up in later seasons. “There was more than one morning when I woke up with an empty kid-sized bag of Doritos next to my bed,” Robertson recalls of her hangover prevention tactics when drinking. (These days, she recommends a B-12 vitamin and lots of water before bed.)
Johnson, for his part, echoed a common theme from many of his fellow contestants: “Just start drinking again. The cure for me is to just pick up where I left off. Then, by the second morning, I’m fine. No hangover at all.” And great ratings, too.