In St. Thomas' turquoise waters, friends drop anchor for sumptous eats.

By Kathy Mendieta styling by Jackie Mills
October 08, 2006
Howard L. Puckett

While gold lured pirates to the waters around St. Thomas, it was natural beauty that drew Jan Robinson to the island's shores. Jan, a vivacious New Zealander, and her American husband, Pero, set sail aboard their 60-foot yacht, Vanity, and glided toward the U.S. Virgin Islands from their North Carolina home. "P's idea of a great time was to find a beautiful spot, drop anchor, and work on the boat," says Jan. "Mine was to drop anchor, hoist the cocktail flag, and invite everyone around over for drinks and hors d'oeuvres."

Soon after, Jan obtained her captain's license, and Vanity became one of the largest private charter yachts in the Caribbean. But sparkling seascapes, candy-color sunsets, and night skies streaked with shooting stars weren't enough for her guests. "This had to be the vacation of a lifetime," Jan says. She earned certificates from Le Cordon Bleu, The Ritz Cooking School, and Culinary Institute of America, all the while collecting recipes from chefs around the world. Jan's feasts were served on bone china―unheard of in the days of closet-size galleys, when paper plates and sandwiches were the mainstay. Pleas for recipes from repeat guests led Jan to publish 10 cookbooks.

These days Jan does most of her entertaining at home in St. Thomas. Although she has retired as captain/chef, she still enjoys sharing the magic of the islands with others. She now books charter yacht vacations. "There's something for any pocket, occasion, destination, and imagination," she says.

Today's menu, served aboard her friend's yacht, Marmot, reflects Caribbean tastes. "I chose these recipes because they're fast, fun, and fabulous, and made from things you have on hand," says Jan. "The pumpkin soup in cordial glasses is easy and different. It provides something healthy besides the standard vegetable platter, and the glasses are really fun to decorate. I've learned that people eat with their eyes first, then with their noses, and finally their mouths―so it's important for everything to look enticing."

"Crab Patties with Pistachio-Avocado Butter can be served as an hors d'oeuvre or made a bit larger and served with salad or rice for dinner if people stay late," says Jan. "Pistachio-Avocado Butter can be served with chicken as well. I like to mix and match recipes―interchanging them like clothes."