A lot has changed since chef Clay Conley left Mandarin Oriental Miami’s Azul restaurant a decade ago to turn Palm Beach’s staid dining scene on its head with restaurants like Buccan, Imoto and Grato. In the meanwhile, Conley earned ﬁve James Beard nominations and started a family with his wife and college sweetheart, Averill. The father-of-two got sober, too, trading wild nights for workouts at daily boot camps with his staff. “The presence shows in the kitchen,” says Conley, who’s making good use of his clear mind with his latest project, Chateau Miami.
In recent years, as skyscrapers and shopping centers shot up in the mainland’s Brickell district, a historic, turreted manse known as Chateau Petit Duoy collected dust. The right investors ﬁnally came along to transform it into a restaurant with imaginative interiors by Ken Fulk and tropical gardens by Nievera Williams.
“The space sold me hands down,” Conley says, adding that it’s meant to evoke the feeling of visiting an eccentric uncle’s estate, albeit one located in the Loire Valley. “But we’re not presenting it in a way that’s too precious,” he adds, noting the rambling setting’s warmth and the casual menu, which is anchored by ingredients from local organic farms and a wood-ﬁred hearth from the same fabricator as Buccan’s. “Even if people come in several times a week to dine, they can have different experiences.
It’s more like a neighborhood hangout than a special occasion destination.” Conley didn’t have to alter (or dumb down) his food when he opened Buccan, his foray into Palm Beach. Some of Buccan’s mainstays, such as steak tartare, cross over here. One of Buccan’s in-house pasta makers also made the move south for splurges like carbonara raviolini with bacon and peas held together in a rich mixture of grated parmesan and quail egg. Just because it’s Miami, he doesn’t feel the need to be pretentious or pander to a Latin American demographic either.
“I don’t have to offer more Peruvian dishes, for example, since we’ve always done them,” says Conley, regarding Buccan’s well-received, progressive global fare that he transfers to his new venture. “I’ve had good luck cooking what I love.”