Creating new traditions is something Navy Beach does naturally, so the celebrated Montauk-born eatery is perfectly placed as one of the key sponsors for the Caribbean Charter Yacht Show.
Having launched its first Caribbean outpost at IGY’s Yacht Haven Grande in St Thomas just two years ago (a second offshoot on St Maarten soon followed), it will be the beating heart and soul of F&B offerings during the four-day show in December.
With a host of locally inspired events taking place, including a Colours of the Caribbean chef competition, a cocktail competition and delicious new recipe and menu showcases, Navy Beach will play an important role in the success of this inaugural event.
“It’s been really exciting to watch this get dreamed up and see it come together,” says Navy Beach’s founding partner Frank Davis. “Navy Beach was the first sponsor of the CCYS and we are thrilled to be involved. Yacht Haven Grande is one of the pre-eminent marinas to host such an event and while other events in Monaco and Antigua have a great legacy, the USVIs are really under recognised despite them being a terrific place and a doorway to the BVIs.”
Navy Beach St Thomas opened just a few months before the pandemic began and Frank believes it is testament to the drive and determination of the local people that the restaurant has not only survived but thrived.
“It’s true that it has been an incredibly difficult and challenging time, however, it has also shown us how terrific the locals in St Thomas are,” he adds. “They have faced other challenges like the 2017 hurricane and their fortitude in stepping forward and recovering has been impressive. This is matched by the fortitude of IGY to also stand firm, continue to invest and stay present long-term on the island.”
With Covid closing nearby superyacht destinations including the BVIs and St Barts, St Thomas became a hub where people felt comfortable travelling given that it is part of the US and Frank believes this period has helped to redefine the appeal of the USVIs.
“I’ve watched people arriving for their charters to the BVIs and they’re taking flights to St Thomas and then jumping on a ferry to depart for their yacht. It’s common sense to question why you need to take a second trip on landing in St Thomas when you can simply depart from here instead.
“Yacht Haven Grande and IGY recognised this and slowly and methodically, they refocused people on the beauty of the USVI, the St John beaches and so on. People who hadn’t been here for several years saw that the beaches and marina were absolutely fabulous.”
A graduate of Cornell University’s renowned School of Hotel Administration, Frank enjoyed a career financing hotels and restaurants but when the 2009 financial crisis hit, he started casting around for other opportunities and was introduced to his fellow founder partner Franklin Ferguson. “We got a call from a friend in Montauk who asked if I knew anyone who wanted to run a restaurant there,” he recalls. “Franklin’s wife Leyla Marchetto and my wife Kristina came on board; we designed the logo on the back of a napkin and the rest is history!”
Navy Beach took its name from its Montauk location, the site of which was a US naval base in the 1940s. “There’s still a tremendous amount of history there,” adds Frank. “There was a restocking pier for navy ships, a submarine pier and they tested torpedoes there. It’s a strategic location with gun entrenchments up in the hills. The history evaporated over time but as we opened up, many veterans came in and we became ambassadors for the Navy SEALs.”
In 2016, Frank struck up a rapport with IGY’s CEO Tom Mukamal during IGY’s tenure of the Montauk Yacht Club and, realising the common goals they shared, the pair discussed potential partnership ideas. “We had some co-branding efforts going and really admired each other’s organisations and the synergies within nautical hospitality. The 2017 hurricane put us on pause but we’ve been hankering to get moving and finally did so in 2019.
“Navy Beach has had a lot of opportunities to expand in the past 12 years and we came close once or twice. People often want to co-create something with you or leverage your brand. I had a very high bar and a strategic list of items and IGY met just about every one of them. We have similar high marks for what we want to do and ideas for future growth and we are hoping to grow further in other locations.”
Navy Beach, St Thomas was developed as a hybrid blend of the best Montauk had to offer combined with a particularly Caribbean direction in terms of produce and flavour. “It’s important to honour the local fabric and culture and we embrace that. Montauk is the oldest commercial fishing port in New York so we do a lot of dock to dine and we’ve mirrored that in the Caribbean, forming relationships with local fishermen and imbibing ourselves with their culture and people.
“People who have seen us in Montauk see similar colours and décor here and even some of the key staff who’ve come with us, so there’s a tremendous feeling of warmth and familiarity.”
“We have a wide demographic in Montauk and this translates to our St. Thomas property. We are appealing to families with children, a younger late-night crowd, and everything in between. We always embrace the local community. Tourists come and go, locals keep you going and are our mainstay.”
With a generous 14-acre upland site, well protected with amazing views and spectacular sunsets against a superyachting backdrop, Yacht Haven Grande and Navy Beach will provide the perfect setting for this unique yacht show.
Attendees can enjoy breakfast and lunch on the restaurant’s expansive outdoor deck overlooking the marina while cheffing events, a cocktail competition and various other soirées will also be ongoing. “We are still finalising the details but I’m confident that this is going to be one of the most fun, exciting and well-fed yacht shows to date,” adds Frank.
“Our role is to feed people, keep them hydrated and put them in the right environment to engage in the activities. We are going above and beyond to get them involved in the show. We will be hosting several interactive events like cocktail mixing, book signings, chef entertainment on the grill, local chef pop-ups, opportunities for the brokers to judge, mix, engage and enjoy.
“We will also unveil some exciting new dishes incorporated into an eclectic menu. We have visiting local and celebrity chefs and exciting gourmet sponsors. We will have a heavy tilt towards Caribbean influences, embracing the culture, people and food, not just on the higher end mega yacht style of cuisine, but also on a broad-based comfort and casual basis to honour the broader demographic.”
The visiting superyacht and celebrity chefs are sure to be inspired by Navy Beach’s own retinue of passionate and gifted creators in the kitchen. “Our executive chef leads from the top and our chefs from New York, who have been with us from day one, come down periodically to spend time with the chefs we’re developing in St Thomas,” says Frank.
“We’re working closely with events co-ordinators Jenn Johnson and Nancy Bean as well as the IGY team who are hyper focused and involved. We have a team heading down next week for a pre-rehearsal to lay it all out.”
Frank feels the event will also be a fitting showcase for the developing USVI food scene, which has come on in leaps and bounds over the past few years. “It’s going through a renaissance at the moment; the layers of food and different offerings have become more sophisticated and interesting,” he explains.
“You can now find very high-quality sushi, and while fresh fish has always been there, putting it together in a Japanese offering was not something that was happening in the USVI four or five years ago.
“High-end Italian food and amazing ceviche is also a relatively new thing – it’s not just the boardwalk offerings and quick lunches the cruise ship market might be looking for any longer. Lots of people have migrated to St Thomas for the lifestyle and they have brought their food with them. It’s a very exciting time.”