Tourists are often fascinated, understandably, by the minutiae of daily island life. Here they are in a place that seems pretty damn close to paradise, populated by people seemingly just like them except they’ve figured out how to make a life in a locale most only vacation in. It’s no wonder they want the inside scoop – How do you live here? What do you do for work?
For those of us already living in the tropics, while we’ve sorted out some of the particulars, I find that we’re all still intrigued by how our fellow islanders make their living. You befriend people in jobs you wish you had and wonder, How does one get an island job like that?
This new series, Peek Into My Island Job, will feature island women and their jobs on a rock – how they came to work in the profession that they do, insider details on what the position is really like, and more.
Today’s featured islander has found herself running an incredibly unique island business – a floating pizzeria.
MEET ELISE SCHROEDER
Island: St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
Business: Pizza Pi VI
Job title: General Manager (or, her self appointed title, Pizza Queen)
In the protected harbor of Christmas Cove, just off of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, you’ll find many island treasures – snorkeling with sea turtles, well-maintained mooring balls, and… a floating pizzeria. Yup, you heard that right – Pizza Pi VI is a restaurant and bar ON A BOAT that’s only accessible BY BOAT.
Pizza Pi VI caters to mostly day charters and term charter boats that are passing through the area. They also get a lot of off-duty crew who are loyal fans, as well as some cruise ship tourists. As a part of their stationing in Christmas Cove, they are commissioned as the “hosts of the bay” and help keep watch over the area by enforcing no fishing rules and ensuring the delicate ecosystem is respected.
On their menu, they have five specialty pizzas, monthly rotating specials where they really get creative, and an option for people to build their own pi. “Madd Mushroom” and “Carbonara” are their most popular, though you can view the full menu here. They also have a bar on the boat to serve up tropical cocktails alongside their slices for boats that raft up alongside theirs. All of their dough is homemade and they even grow their own basil!
You can bring your boat or dinghy over to pick up your own pizzas, or they also have a delivery service within the cove.
Pizza Pi’s General Manager, Elise, first moved to St. Thomas in August of 2011. She’s been down in the islands for nearly eight years now and has been working with Pizza Pi for three seasons. This is her first season as General Manager.
She wound up in her current position in the way of the best island stories – purely by chance. Elise was waiting tables at Fish Tails Bar and Grill in Red Hook (now Outriggers) and a coworker of hers was also a deckhand out on Pizza Pi. She suggested Elise apply for the job when they were doing mid-season hiring, and so Elise started as a deckhand for two days a week. It didn’t take her long to fall in love with the job.
At the time, she asked her manager if she could become a Pizza Pi chef one day, and she told her that she thought Elise was too short for the job (and honestly, she really is!). However, Elise was determined to learn how to chef, so she came up with shortcuts on how to compensate for her height, and the rest is history!
On a recent visit to Pizza Pi VI, we asked Elise a few questions about what her island job entails…
How has your background/previous job experience helped you in your current position (if at all)?
All of my background is in customer service/food service. It was nice to have something I could lean into when I didn’t really know anything about boating yet.
What’s a typical work day like for you?
I usually start my day around 6:45 – 7am. From there, I run our daily provisions – Irie Pops, sodas, beers, CHEESE, and all of the things that we ran low on the previous day. By 8am, I’ve got Sunshine (our dinghy) loaded and I’m headed over to Christmas Cove to start up for the day.
I’ve got to get our generator running and ovens turned on by 9am. We need to give everything time to warm up before we start going Pi-crazy. I then go to pick up the rest of my crew from the beach around 9:15am. We spend the rest of our morning before opening getting ourselves ready for service. We have to make boxes, make the boat picture-ready, and put up the OPEN flag by 11am. Then, it’s pizza party central until 6pm when we close. We spend about 45 minutes to an hour cleaning up at the end of the day, then we all dinghy back to shore.
It is a really long day, but the sunsets, pizza, and people make it all worth it!
What surprised you about your job once you were in it that you didn’t initially expect?
When I first started, I knew nothing about boats! I was super surprised by all of the intricate systems, and how you can build basically whatever you want into a boat.
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
The view! Christmas Cove has AMAZING sunsets and the weather is always gorgeous.
What’s your least favorite thing about your job?
How hot it gets! We run two ovens at 550° each – add to that the tropical humidity, and things get steamy here.
What are the most challenging aspects of running a business on a boat?
Making sure all of your systems are running properly and provisioning. If you forget just one item, it can throw off everything. Once you’re on the boat, it’s not possible to simply run over to the grocery store.
Outsiders often glamorize “working in paradise.” What do you say when people say you’re, “living the dream”?
Oh gosh, I hear this at least five times a day and my usual response is, “That’s what they tell me!”
Though I must say, even with all of the heat and hard work, it really is a dream job. Back home, my 8-year-old sister tells all of her classmates that her future dream job is to work on a pizza boat too!
What advice would you give to someone wanting to move to an island and attain a job like yours?
Make sure you do your research! While we do live on an island, it isn’t a vacation everyday like most people think it would be. We work very hard here in the Virgin Islands, but we work hard most days so that we can play even harder on our off days.
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If you’d like to connect with Elise, you can find her on Instagram. Her adorable island dog who accompanies her to work each day on the boat (wait until you meet this cutie!), Alfredo, can also be found on his own Instagram account.
Be sure to check out Pizza Pi VI‘s website for information on boats that can get you to them for some island-style pizza. Pizza Pi VI is open from 11am – 6pm daily. They’re also on Facebook and Instagram, posting pizza pics from paradise that will make you drool.
Do you have an island job that you’d like to share more details about? Send us an email for a chance to be featured in this series!