Buccan's Clay Conley has had a great and busy start to 2012. Recently, Conley and his partners opened their second restaurant in Palm Beach, Imoto, shortly after receiving notice of his semi-finalist nomination for a James Beard Award. And this spring he celebrates the success of his one year old, bona fide hit, Buccan. Named after a Caribbean wooden grill, Buccan has been an astonishing success, with Palm Beach's wealthy, famous and entitled packing the house for Conley's creations. Here is Conley's take on his past 12 months. --Matt Tylka
When was the first time that you talked about opening a restaurant?
While in college at FSU.
What are some of your favorite experiences from previous restaurants you've worked in?
The most memorable and rewarding experiences from past jobs are all the moments of learning, from new techniques to flavors to tools. Working in Japan was incredible. Even “family meal” was an opportunity to learn. And the level of attention and integrity from all the cooks was inspiring.
One year later, how would you describe Buccan's rookie year?
The response to Buccan exceeded all our expectations and we are so very grateful for the community's support.
When did you first know Buccan was going to be a success?
Maybe even before we opened? During the mock service training our invited guests were raving and asking to come back! Word of mouth spread fast and we were slammed the first night. We "quietly" opened the door. Nothing is more encouraging that that kind of validation.
How has Buccan evolved in a year?
I think our clientele has evolved and are more willing to experiment and try new things.
How did you celebrate your James Beard semifinalists nomination?
With a giant smile, I am still smiling. It really is such an honor to be recognized at all.
Who are your favorite diners?
Those that eat everything.
Any good celebrity Buccan stories?
Not that I can share!
What are some of your favorite South Florida dining spots?
Usually more ethnic, hole in the wall places. There is a Peruvian place in Miami, Sabor a Peru, that I miss. I also loved Yakko-San in Miami. Also a Vietnamese joint, Cay Da, in Boca.
Does it feel like it's been a year?
In some ways, "Oh, yes" and in other ways, "I can't believe it's been a year." Isn’t that how it is with all things in life though?
Well, after opening Imoto, our second restaurant, just last month....perhaps a vacation?!