Most bon viveurs would agree that two of the most crucial ingredients in any successful event are food and wine.
After all, they are the elements most likely to leave lasting memories indelibly imprinted in the mind - and on the tastebuds too! So it’s no surprise to find that East Coast food and wine expert Nancy Bean was the natural candidate to spearhead the F&B offering at this year’s inaugural Caribbean Charter Yacht Show.
With a career encompassing prestigious gastronomy events such as the Nantucket Wine & Food Festival, the Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival and James Beard Taste America, Nancy could not be better placed to create a totally new and innovative culinary experience at the four-day show, which takes place at IGY’s Yacht Haven Grande Marina, St. Thomas, in December.
‘I’m very excited about this opportunity,’ she tells me from Boston where she is based. ‘I spent five months last winter in St. John and really got to know the area. I’ve always wanted to do more with food and wine in the Caribbean as it hasn’t really been developed and locals and visitors alike are longing for more elevated events. The Caribbean Charter Yacht Show will launch this effort and is a taste of what’s to come - understanding the culture, the people, the players and how to make things happen.
‘We are keen to promote and incorporate local chefs into the various events and meals for brokers and engage them in the festivities – Welcome Party, Awards Ceremony, Captains Night, Crew Party, etc…. we aim to create an authentic connection to our local chefs here.
‘The University of the Virgin Islands also has a Culinary Arts Program and we plan to involve the students and offer training and support to give back to the community.
Nancy has also been tasked with running the CCYS Chef Competition and, thanks to her little black book, she has already assembled an A-list judging panel with impeccable foodie credentials.
‘We have Ray Isle, executive wine editor at Food & Wine, who travels the world, teaches seminars and is brilliant as well as White House chef Guy Mitchell. He’s fabulously entertaining and tells crazy stories about the different administrations he’s cooked for and behind-the-scenes stories on Air Force One. He’s also an incredible chef who runs The White House chef tour, trains the White House chefs and holds charitable fundraisers.
‘Our third judge is local celebrity chef, St Thomas restaurateur Julius Jackson, who has owned eight eateries and is an outstanding supporter of the USVI community. A former Olympic boxer, Julius is also involved in a fantastic vocational program aimed at getting under-privileged children into the culinary industry.’
‘The theme for the Chef Competition will be Colours of the Caribbean, incorporating local Caribbean products into the menus. Superyacht chefs will be judged on taste, presentation, use of local products, wine pairings as well as colour and table scaping.
Growing up in a gastronomic family, food and wine has been a major force in Nancy’s life. She launched her own event marketing and production company, WISE UP Events, in 1998 and one of her first clients was Grey Goose. Before long, she was planning their glamorous sponsored events at the Cannes Film Festival, the Ryder Cup, the US Open and Newport Mansions.
Having taken on the running of the Nantucket Wine & Food Festival in the early 2000s, Nancy subsequently acquired it, cementing her bonds with globally recognised chefs, winemakers and producers and expanding the event into a world-renowned wine and culinary arts festival.
She also designed and developed Boston-based public broadcasting network WGBH-TV’s first food and wine festival and is currently working on an exciting new project taking place in the Swiss resort of Gstaad.
‘Working with winemakers, who are also farmers, scientists and artists, is intoxicating,’ she enthuses. ‘It became my passion, it’s very infectious to be around these creatives. In normal times, I travel to Burgundy, Bordeaux and Tuscany, staying in amazing places, meeting with winemakers, curating new relationships and inviting them to come to our events.”
When the pandemic hit, however, Nancy’s flourishing business ground to a halt overnight with her team being laid off and her office closing. ‘Our whole world shut down with Covid. We were just about to launch Eat Drink Boston, which we had been working on for two years, but nothing could happen. Our restaurant friends, chefs and the entire food industry went to zero as did our events, which were in various stages of production. All of a sudden, there was nothing. It was devastating.’
However, a challenging situation soon presented an opportunity that paved the way for Nancy’s collaboration with IGY and CCYS.
‘Friends of mine who own resorts in Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket were getting ready to open a resort on a private island off the coast of Cruz Bay in St. John,’ she recalls. ‘They asked me to come to the Caribbean for the winter and consult on the food and beverage set-up and, with my event world on hold, this was an easy decision!’
“Living in the Caribbean for five months, I connected with the folks at Yacht Haven Grande, IGY and Navy Beach and we started talking about ideas for bigger food and wine productions in the USVI. We knew all about what we couldn’t do, but we started to consider what we could do.’
Having paid close attention in recent months to the gradual reopening of restaurants, bars and resorts she says: ‘The culinary industry will be forever changed but it’s important to support the reopening and ensure we do that safely.’
Nancy will soon be heading back to St. Thomas to meet local chefs and discuss how to bring a Caribbean flavour into every aspect of the Caribbean Charter Yacht Show. “I am looking to raise the bar, elevate the epicurean focus and make this event unique and memorable from a gastronomic perspective.”
“We have an amazing core food and beverage team with Navy Beach – one of the mainstay restaurants at Yacht Haven Grande – and their incredible team will be at the forefront of all catering throughout the show.
‘The ultimate goal is to develop an amazing showcase for this part of the world set against a beautiful superyacht backdrop and we are well on our way to making this happen!”