One of my bucket list photo shoots happened just a few months ago in Grato, when I had the opportunity to work with the masterful chef Clay Conley. Like many in south Florida, I met Clay through his food. First, Buccan. I fell head over heels in love with Buccans’s small plates, so masterfully prepared (that steak tartare with a crispy egg yolk!). Buccan's graceful ambiance and impeccable service put me over the edge. Then I got to know Clay while working on stories for The Palm Beach Post and wrote about Imoto, which translates into Little Sister. I love Imoto – they’ve got an amazing happy hour and the most spectacular sushi bites.
So when he opened his third restaurant, Grato, in West Palm Beach, I jumped at the opportunity to work with him and his beautiful, bubbly wife Averill. The Conley’s are amazing – I’m so incredibly grateful that we have them and their restaurants in our county.
Doing the photos for Grato was AMAZING! We started out with the food photos – I brought in Janderyn Makris from Earth and Sugar to do the visual styling. I wanted Janderyn's gorgeous, animated styling to connect the dishes to the ingredients in gorgeous, styled shots that still felt accessible. We wanted a rustic look that represented Clay’s superior skills and showcased the beauty of his food. We kept the light natural-based to accentuate a rustic feel. The props? Also accessible and in a similar tonal range.
They’re some of my favorite pictures I’ve taken.
Then we moved onto portraits and interiors. The interiors – which always take a long time to photograph properly – captured the color and vibrancy of the restaurant. They were SO much fun.
It’s a beautiful restaurant – beautiful from every touch in the interiors to the love expressed from each and every chef.
We finished up the shoot with portraits, though by far my favorite portrait was a quick snap captured of Clay making pizzas in the middle. It has all of the elements I love in a picture, that my first mentor Joel Sartore taught me years ago – beautiful light, clean background – and maybe a moment.
Now, onto Grato’s food. Affordable, delicious, small plates meant to be shared and enjoyed with people you love. But if you really want to change your life, order the Mustard Orecchiette made with rabbit, sausage and broccoli rabe. The brick-oven pizza is a home run and the presence of the brick oven will remind everyone of Buccan – Clay loves the act of cooking in a super hot oven. The crostinis are a delight and the desserts, created by the charming pastry chef Garth Deppa are not to be missed no matter how full you are.
And the best news I’ve heard? They’re going to start serving brunch very soon! Holla!!
Cool links that Grato has had stories published in lately: