Clay Conley


Chef Clay Conley opened Buccan in Palm Beach, FL in January 2011. His intention was to create a space that replicated the warmth of cooking at home with friends, offering full-flavored small plates designed to share, a casually sophisticated ambiance, and a welcoming reception. The raving accolades that resulted from his realized vision included two James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef: South, numerous other Best Chef and Best New Restaurant honors, and February 2012, he opened Imoto (transl: little sister), an intimate, Asian-focused extension of Buccan.

Clay's approach at Buccan represents true world casual cuisine, blending the classic comfort of his New England childhood, the rustic boldness of the Mediterranean, and the sensual influence of Latin America in thoughtful, explosive arrangements. The time he spent living in Tokyo and subsequent travels though Southeast Asia inspire his offerings at Imoto. In all his cooking, Clay applies contrasting tastes, textures, and temperatures to traditional flavor combinations, highlighting his attention to balance.

The chef's business continues to grow. In 2014, due to increasing demand, Clay and partners launched Buccan Catering, a full-fledged catering division for on and offsite events. The Sandwich Shop at Buccan, offering to-go lunch options crafted on house-made breads using house-cured meats, opened later that year. And Grato, a full-service Italian-inspired restaurant, is scheduled to open in West Palm Beach Fall 2015.

Chef Clay and his restaurants have been recognized in national and international media outlets including New York Times, Travel + Leisure, Boston Globe, NY Post, Conde Nast Traveler, Robb Report, Fodors, Complot, USA Today, Travel Channel and Wall Street Journal. Buccan is listed as Forbes Travel Guide's "hottest spot" in Palm Beach, Esquire's "Where to Eat in South FL Now," OpenTable's "Top 100 Hot Spot Restaurants in America," and has received "Best Restaurant" accolades from all area publications. Clay has been honored with two James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef: South and was listed as a "Top 25 Best Chefs of The American South." He has cooked on Emeril's Florida, featured on both Food Network and Cooking Channel, The Victory Garden, The Today Show and Fox and Friends.

Learn More About Clay Conley

What is your earliest memory involving food or wine?
I remember as a very young child in Maine, my family racing lobsters across the kitchen table before we ate them

If you've participated in the Festival before, what is your favorite SOBEWFF memory to date?
Working for Todd English several years ago (2002?), staying up very late then going to the Loews to cook a brunch very early. The brunch went off well until Todd brought me up onstage afterward and I looked like a homeless person.