Buy Local movement should apply to provisioning abroad

Feb 26, 2016 by Chef Mary Beth LawtonJohnson

As the chef provisioning the yacht, are you helping the owner operator of a small store or hurting it?  

You are in a foreign port, having arrived with all kinds of provisions onboard. Sometimes the boss’s favorite meats or snacks are just not available where you are going. So you stock up before you leave your home port with plenty just in case. Not to mention the crew snacks, drinks, food items.

You finally arrive at your destination three weeks later, run out of prime steaks and other items that are a must have. So you pick up the telephone and call your provision company to import the steaks. How many thousands of dollars did you just spend with the click of the receiver?

Do you think that takes away from the local economic benefit your yacht could generate for a community? Yes, it has. I once knew a stewardess who insisted the yacht order from a provision company in England for a delivery in St. Maarten. Not too smart, if you ask me, and the food cost went through the roof and wasn’t that good!

You are probably thinking as you read this article, why harp on me? I am just the chef. I do what I am told. Other crew probably think the same way. Sadly, most yachts think this way.

Did you know there is a store in Costa Rica where the owner imports all his meats and seafood especially beef from the USA because in Central America, their beef is tough.  It’s a higher price point and he makes more money by selling it this way to the yachts that come in.

If you really must know, the beef in a foreign country might not look what you are accustomed to seeing it in the USA or your hometown. But any meat can become tender depending on how you cook it.  Get over the idea that just because it is not portioned out right or cut right, it can’t be good in a foreign country.

The point is to buy from mom- and-pop organizations and put the money back directly into their pockets to support the immediate local economy, not import it.

There are a whole lot of buts and ifs with this one statement such as what if the animal was not raised on the proper diet. So you have to take into account what the preferences are onboard, what they want. It doesn’t have to be meat that you buy in the country you visit. It can be anything to support the local business.

Different countries are sometimes not up to our standards, one chef told me. True, the cleanliness and hygiene in some countries are not what we might be accustomed to. So you don’t buy your meats from them. What else could you buy that might support that sharecropper in the DR? Would it be his sugar cane product? Or the coffee owner? his coffee? Get my idea?

Perhaps some might say, well, the locals can sustain the economy that they live in. Not necessarily so. Most of the tourist destinations that we visit are supported by the tourist dollars, consider yourself as the chef dollars from the yacht as you go out to shop.

Sure the dockage, marina fees, importation taxes, customs fees help but they go to a specific group of businesses and not the general economy that depends on the bread and butter that the multi million dollar yacht brings with it.

You as the chef say, ‘Well, we go to the stores and buy the produce or buy from the guy peddling the fish in the markets or buy that cute top in that boutique.’

That is the whole idea, but take it down one notch, buy from the local fruit stands, or go to the farmers markets instead. You are putting the money directly into the hands of the farmers when you do this. It’s their profit and they don’t have to share it with the middle man who gets his cut and the store who gets his cut. Case in point. I watched coffee pickers come from Nicaragua and work for 25 cents a bushel basket picking coffee while the coffee plantation owners reaped in the profits. Try buying coffee directly from the picker of their own farm. And instead of going straight to market to buy the fish, look for the local fish boats or shrimp boats, Buy it from them directly. You can’t get much fresher.

Mary Beth Lawton Johnson is a certified executive pastry chef and Chef de Cuisine and has worked on yachts for more than 25 years. Contact her through



About Chef Mary Beth LawtonJohnson

Mary Beth Lawton Johnson is a certified executive pastry chef and Chef de Cuisine and has worked on yachts for more than 25 years.

View all posts by Chef Mary Beth LawtonJohnson →