LUCKY ROOSTER K I T C H E N + B A R Chef Clayton Rollison __________ BY CHRISTY BARONI
If you are lucky enough to have eaten at the Lucky Rooster, you have experienced the product of a local boy who spread his wings while staying true to his southern roots. Meet Chef Clayton Rollison, longtime local in the food and beverage industry. He grew up on the beaches of this small island home town, and enjoyed the quiet life of the pre-Cross Island Point Comfort area. As early as 1984 his family was opening restaurants here on the island. At just 14 years old, he started working for his uncle at the Crazy Crab and fell in love with the characters, the stories, and the excitement of the industry. When pressed for details about the characters, a sly smile crept across his face and he kindly kept those secrets to himself. After graduating from Prep in ’99 he bounced around through college trying to find focus and direction. He eventually landed at the Culinary Institute of American (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY to complete culinary school. He cut his teeth in New York City and at this point a sense of purpose and focus developed. The market shift in 2008 coincided with the moment in Clayton’s life when he felt he had hit a ceiling and was ready for another change of scenery. In retrospect he recognizes that his own attitude and perception were the primary drivers of this need for change. He landed in Nashville where he was tasked to re-launch a huge restaurant. He describes this time in his life as ‘biting off more than he could chew’, which was exactly the challenge he craved and needed to give him space to grow as a Chef. Being forced in to this huge role with bigger responsibilities than he’d ever managed before gave him the confidence and skill to come back home and launch Lucky Rooster. It was the building block that led right to the success we know and love. Not only did he find a level of professional success in Nashville, he also found his wife. He met the ying to his yang in Leah. When speaking about Leah, he shares a rare and refreshing admiration for her contributions not only to his overall happiness in life, but also in the balance she provides for their young family. While chatting with Clayton, one thing that stood out was the genuine admiration and respect he has not only for his family, but also for his fellow staff at the Lucky Rooster. Even when speaking about his classmates at CIA, he spoke only of their accomplishments and their talent. Through this genuine respect he recognizes the good work of those around him. This is a rare and unique quality that Chef Clayton displayed over and over again. 26
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