I was officially on a work trip, but most of my duties seemed to consist of lying on the beach, cooking epic dinners and drinking mango-and-tequila cocktails. It was the winter of 2010 and my fiancée, Jori Jayne Emde, and I were visiting St. John in the US Virgin Islands to determine if it could support a branch of Fatty Crab, the Malaysian-inspired restaurant my business partner Rick Camac and I founded in 2005 in New York City.
I had no reason to think it could. Only 4,100 people live on St. John year-round, a number that triples during high season. Because the US National Parks Service controls about 60 percent of the land, St. John is one of the least developed islands in the Caribbean—there’s no golf course or even an airport. (Visitors take the lumbering ferry from St. Thomas.)
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Still, I had an investor urging me along: Michael Skurnik, a New York wine importer who has a vacation home on St. John. He was eager to partner on a Fatty restaurant, island-style. So Rick, Jori Jayne and I flew down to visit him. As we hopped from beach to beach, we kept repeating to ourselves, "There’s no way this island could support a Fatty Crab." Drinking wine "spritzahs" (as Michael calls them) on his deck: "There’s no way this island could support a Fatty Crab."