Chef Clay Conley of Buccan, Palm Beach, isn’t taking any time off to bask in the glory of the James Beard nomination for Best Chef South. He didn’t even know about the award until his chef friend Ed Cotton (Top Chef DC runner-up) texted him a congratulations message.
“It’s a great honor,” Conley said.”It’s cool to be recognized within the industry. But I don’t know how many people really follow the Beard awards.”
The prestigious awards fly under the radar of many outside the food industry, but they mean a great deal to chefs, he said, noting those who’ve won in the past are standouts. Many household names, including his mentor, Todd English, are among those who’ve won Best Chef titles.
The James Beard Foundation presents chefs, restaurateurs, wine experts and food charity leaders as well as visionaries with honors at the annual awards ceremonies in May each year. Finalists will be announced in March.
So what are your chances? we asked. “Slim to none, and slim left town,” Conley laughed. But just being nominated is a win in his book, though he continues to build on Buccan success.
Busy with Imoto
He can be forgiven for not being aware of the awards, however – he quietly opened Imoto next door to Buccan five nights ago and his focus has been on the tiny restaurant. Imoto, which means “little sister,” has a menu of Asian-inspired small plates.
“We didn’t want to take too many reservations – we just wanted to ease into it at first and see how it goes. It’s small, 30 or so seats.”
Diners can access the restaurant through the back hallway area of Buccan, but there’s a separate entrance on the street.
“There’s standard sushi and sashimi, composed sashimi with different sauces and vinaigrettes, spring rolls, wagyu beef carpaccio, Peking duck tacos. We have four or five larger plates for sharing, too.”
A team of Japanese sushi chefs were brought in to do the rolls, while Conley and his cooks will will handle the rest of the dishes.
Noted designer Lars Bolander styled the interior. “It has a whole different feel than Buccan,” Conley said. His Buccan partners, Sam Slattery and Piper Quinn, also are involved.
- 350 S. County Road, Suite 102), Palm Beach
- 561-833-5522; reservations accepted (and suggested)
- Open for dinner Monday-Saturday from 5 p.m.