In The City — 04 December 2015
Words with Palm Beach chef Clay Conley

By Elyse Ranart

Clay Conley says love, luck and loyalty are the keys to his success as chef of Palm Beach’s much loved — and critically acclaimed — būccan and Imoto restaurants on Palm Beach. With the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival kicking off Dec. 10 with a First Bite night at būccan, we talked with the chef about his mentors, Maine roots and final meals.

C&S:  Your latest restaurant, Grato, will open this month in West Palm Beach. Having three restaurants now, all with different concepts, what is the thread that makes them all yours?

CC: I think we approach them all the same way. I like big, bold, lusty flavors that are well balanced. I love acidic counterpoints to big rich flavors.


 C&S: What was the biggest influence on your career?

CC: [Celebrity chef and restaurateur] Todd English. Still maybe one of the best cooks I’ve ever seen. More importantly, a really good guy. 

C&S:  Why the passion for cooking with wood?

CC:  The house [where] I grew up in Maine was a colonial built in the 1700s. It was heated entirely by wood stoves and fireplaces, which means that much of my fall season was spent cutting and stacking wood. I learned at an early age respect for this energy source, and every time I cook with it I feel a little nostalgic. 


C&S:  How do you feel about so many chefs doing books and endorsing products, and do you have plans for that in the future?

 CC:  I don’t really have any plans to write a cookbook, there are so many better cooks out there and there are a million cookbooks already. If I was to ever write anything it would have to be something very personal to me. 


C&S:  What would you eat for your last supper?

CC:  My Grandma Millie’s pork sauerkraut and dumplings.



The 9th Annual Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival, Dec. 10-13 in multiple locations. Tickets and information,, or call 561-389-1222. At press time, the First Bite event at būccan had sold out – but tickets to other events remain.


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