Greenwich Look

Spring 2016

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Inspired by his rural Maine upbringing and a life well-traveled, restaurateur and chef Clay Conley is peppering Palm Beach with fresh, inventive cuisine made of the fi nest ingredients. His successful American restaurant Buccan, which sources local farmers and growers with sustainable practices, has led to what is now a dining mecca, including the fi ne Asian establishment Imoto (translation: little sister), which opened in 2012; The Sandwich Shop at Buccan, a to-go lunch counter that opened in 2014; and now Buccan Catering, a full-fl edged catering division for receptions on- and off -premises. His restaurants have garnered international acclaim and earned him two James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef: South. We sat down with the successful young chef to dish about his inspiration and to fi nd out what's next on his to-do list. When did you fi rst know you would become a chef?Ƥ What was your favorite dish as a child? As soon as I started washing dishes as a kid I loved the energy of the restaurant. My grandma Millie's pork sauerkraut and dumplings were my favorite. How does your rural Maine childhood infl u ence your tastes and tech- niques today? Growing up with livestock and a garden defi nitely made me appreciate the abundance of the land, and all the hard work that goes into working it. It also taught me about seasonality, and supported the importance of sourcing the best and freshest ingredients possible. How did you come up with the concept of Buccan with partners and friends Sam Slattery and Oliver Quinn? What was your inspiration? Buccan was in the hopper for years. Even when I was working [as a protégé] for Todd [English] I was thinking about it. We wanted a casual place that still served delicious food with gracious service. Cooking over wood was an integral part of the concept. You've traveled a lot. Which of your trips have been the biggest infl u- ences on your menu at Buccan? My wife and I moved to Japan for half a year, and then we traveled through Southeast Asian for a month; that really changed my life. Peru was also pretty amazing. What changes and updates do you have planned for 2016?Ƥ In January we opened Grato, an Italian trattoria-inspired concept, in West Palm Beach. We'll be focused on that for a while. We've heard from a number of fans of Buccan that it is just as much a great date night destination as it is a family establishment. How do you manage to please both audiences so successfully? The restaurant changes as the night progresses. Early in the evening it is more of a family place, and as it gets later the crowd gets a little more festive. We start out playing jazz and usually end the night playing classic rock. The menu is pretty varied as well, truly off ering something for everyone. BUCCAN 350 South County Road, Palm Beach, Fla.; 561-833-3450, buccanpalmbeach.com GRATO 1901 South Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, Fla.; 561-404-1334, gratowpb.com Quick dish ➤ CLAY CONLEY The New England-bred chef is carving an ever-expanding niche in Palm Beach's dining scene. CHICHI UBIÑA

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