Chef Clay Conley opened the doors to Buccan with partners and friends Sam Slattery and Oliver “Piper” Quinn in 2011. Years of planning, and decades of working, traveling, reading, eating, drinking, and cooking culminated into this space and menu. Buccan represents what and how Clay loves to cook – small plates with big flavors. The raving accolades that resulted from his realized vision included two James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef: South, numerous Best New Restaurant awards, and growth….in February 2012, he opened Imoto (transl: little sister), an intimate, Asian-focused extension of Buccan.
Clay takes his surroundings seriously. Each city and country that he visits or lived in influences his palate, style and techniques. The hallmarks of his favorite dishes are bright, fresh and balanced flavors, and it’s no surprise that Asian cuisine accentuates these points. While living and working in Tokyo, Clay was influenced by the clean flavors of traditional Japanese cooking. Subsequent travel in China, Thailand, and Singapore sharpened the chef’s palate and interest. Other travel and work in Europe, South America and Asia broadened his exposure to global gastronomy, ingredients and technique. His “progressive American” approach at buccan blends the classic comfort of his New England childhood, the rustic of the boldness Mediterranean, and the sensual influence of Latin America. Highlighting contrasting tastes, textures, and temperatures, Clay applies his flair and sense of balance to traditional flavor combinations and dishes.
A native of rural Maine, Clay grew up tending his family’s orchard and livestock. In the extremes of the New England landscape, he was introduced to the logic of seasonality, the significance of origin and the beauty of fresh ingredients. At 13, the future chef got his first taste of the business, volunteering to work in the kitchen of a local restaurant. Pursuing his calling, he eventually became a protégé of Todd English. In 2005, he was selected by Mandarin Oriental, Miami, to run the kitchen at its signature AAA Five Diamond Award restaurant, Azul.
The team’s business continues to grow. In 2014, due to increasing demand, Clay and partners launched Buccan Catering, a full-fledged catering division for cocktail parties, receptions, luncheons, dinners and other events held on or off the restaurants’ premises. The Sandwich Shop at Buccan, offering lunch only counter service, is scheduled to open in Fall 2014.
Chef Clay and his restaurants have been recognized in national and international media outlets including Travel + Leisure, Boston Globe, NY Post, Conde Nast Traveler, Robb Report, Fodors, Miami Herald, 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 Diners’ Choice “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 Today Show and Fox and Friends.