Far fewer are the cases when a chef leaves a restaurant and makes headlines. People notice. People talk. If you are lucky, customers will adjust to something new.
Still fewer than that are the cases where a restaurant owner/chef runs a relatively successful operation and suddenly walks away. Not to do something across the street, but to take a break from it all. That’s where you find Hilton Head Island native Clayton Rollison.
“If even half the stories I’ve heard about me are true, I’d be living a wonderful life,” Rollison said, referring to the rumor mill that has been doing what it does since he sold Lucky Rooster Kitchen & Bar in 2020. How he got to that point is a very long story, but the bottom line was, he decided after eight years that he needed a break.
“Between opening a second restaurant, remodeling the first one, and Covid, honestly, I was just burnt,” Rollison said. “The market is really tough on Hilton Head.”
And just like that, he sold to a local family looking to do some great things with the brand and disappeared from the public restaurant scene. But he didn’t leave the area as some people will have you believe. He’s still here and currently serving as executive chef at Callawassie Island, a gated community just off Highway 170, roughly between Bluffton and Beaufort.
“I’m really loving this,” Rollison said. “The club, the GM, the residents here … they are just a great group of people. There is different pressure here, for sure. The community is vibrant. They keep us very busy here with lots of club events and wine dinners. For me, it’s great, because at Lucky Rooster we were so focused on hyper-focused Southern food. I get to do some of that here, but I get to cook globally again, and I haven’t done that in a long time. It has really been fun.”
Of course, the clubhouse at Callawassie Island is a private club, so you can’t just take a ride over there for dinner. But we do know where you can catch up with Rollison and enjoy some of his food.
On October 27, he will be one of three featured chefs participating in our Eat It and Like It Fried Chicken and Bubbles event at the Technical College of the Lowcountry. It will be a fantastic event in a beautiful setting, featuring unlimited amounts of fried chicken and a bottomless supply of bubbles plus a dessert bar.
“I’m looking forward to it. This is going to be fun,” Rollison said. “We are going to do some of the signature fried chicken that we used to do at the Rooster and have fun with some other things. We may smoke some chicken before frying it. We may experiment with some Korean fried chicken. I’m not sure. We’ve just started kicking those ideas around.”
Regardless of what they come up with, you know it will be good. And it will also serve as an opportunity to say hello to Rollison (if you can catch him roaming the venue) and see for yourself that he is not, as some have speculated, driving an Uber in Key West.
“That was my favorite,” he said. “Of all the spots people have placed me, that one sounded like the most fun.”
No, the Conch Republic will have to wait a while to see if he ever shows up down there, which is doubtful. There are still too many things he plans to do with his career. There are too many ideas to take a shot on, and there is too much fun to have in kitchens. All that other stuff can wait. For now, we have Clayton Rollison here in the Lowcountry with plenty of opportunites to Eat It and Like It.
You can find more details and a link for tickets to our Fried Chicken and Champagne event at Eat It and Like It.com.