Chef Clay Conley made a name for himself at Azul at the Mandarin Oriental Miami before decamping to Palm Beach County, where he now operates Buccan, Imoto and Grato restaurants. The James Beard Award nominee and father of two is one of the headlining chefs at this year’s Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival, December 14-17. Conley sat down with INDULGE to answer six pressing questions ranging from kimchi fried rice preferences to whether he’ll ever return to cook in Miami:
1. What’s different between the Palm Beach and South Beach food festivals?
“I love both for different reasons. Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival is very intimate and allows for quite a bit of guest interaction. South Beach Wine & Food Festival is…it’s South Beach.”
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2. What events are you hosting for Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival?
“We’re hosting the First Bite at Buccan on December 14 with Timothy Hollingsworth and Matthew Jennings, and then we have an After-Hours party at Imoto on December 16 with Ken Oringer and Danny Serfer. I’m not sure what we’ll be making yet, but it will feature ingredients from our garden that we planted this fall.”
3. What are your favorite places in Palm Beach County to eat, besides your own?
“Cha-Cha Japanese Cafe in Royal Palm Beach. And the Pelican Cafe in Lake Worth – great Indian breakfast on the weekends.”
4. What are your kids’ favorite things to eat at your restaurants?
“Pacherri with Sunday gravy at Grato, kimchi fried rice and king crab roll at Imoto, and grilled shrimp scampi at Buccan.”
5. Will you ever come back to open a restaurant in Miami?
6. What would you do if you were cooking an elaborate meal at Mar-a-Lago, and President Trump requested last-minute menu changes to well-done steak and ice cream?
“When I was younger that sort of thing would have bothered me. Now I’d just give them what they want – and drop a ‘yuge’ bill at the end.”