Chef Clay Conley has been finding his way around the kitchen since he started washing dishes at age 13. An upbringing that included formative years on this family’s farm in Maine, before moving to Florida for college, instilled his love of fresh ingredients and the full-flavored dishes that have become his signature as a chef. In his early 20s he moved to Boston to work for Todd English, ultimately serving as the celebrity chef’s culinary director, overseeing 18 restaurants around the world. Returning to South Florida, he received accolades for his tenure as executive chef at the at the Mandarin Oriental, before relocating to Palm Beach county to open his first chef-helmed venture – Buccan – in 2011. The modern American restaurant which continues to be one of the island’s toughest reservations, focuses on wood fired dishes and small plates and is credited with revolutionizing the Palm Beach dining scene. Casual high-quality dining in a sophisticated yet relaxed atmosphere was a new phenomenon and Conley followed Buccan’s success with Imoto, his Japanese/Asian concept next door. Grato, a high quality casual Italian opened in 2016 in West Palm Beach, where Conley and his young family lived, as the talented chef created a neighborhood restaurant of the type he’d want to frequent with friends and family.
Four-time semi-finalist for a James Beard Award as a “Best Chef in America,” Conley and his restaurants have been recognized in national and international publications including New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Travel + Leisure, NY Post, Robb Report, Conde Nast Traveler, Miami Herald, Complot, Boston Globe, Fodor’s and USA Today. Buccan has been praised by Forbes as one of the best restaurants in Palm Beach and has received “Best Restaurant” honors from all area publications. Clay has also cooked on Emeril’s Florida, featured on both the Food Network and Cooking Channel, PBS’s The Victory Garden, The Today Show and Fox and Friends.