Hospitality is a tradition for Chef Clayton Rollison. With family ties to both retail and restaurant businesses, he grew up in an environment that fit naturally with his eventual career path. These days, he's establishing his own stellar reputation as proprietor and executive chef of Lucky Rooster Kitchen + Bar on Hilton Head Island, winning rave reviews for his seafood-centric Lowcountry cuisine.
The bounty of the surrounding waterways heavily informs the menu of Lucky Rooster. Rollison's aesthetic in the kitchen is one that prioritizes the use of the locally sourced fish and seafood. If it's not fresh off the boat, it's not likely to go on the plate.
"I like to showcase our coastal ingredients, keeping everything fresh and seasonal," he said. "And I like to shine the spotlight on sustainable fish species that get a bad rap for being ‘trash,' but that can be prepared to taste great. Being a chef provides a platform for me to promote our community through events like the Hilton Head Island Seafood Festival, as well as to encourage ocean and seafood sustainability."
Born and raised on Hilton Head Island, Rollison's high school days involved restaurant work in his spare time. When college rolled around, he initially gravitated toward a career in law. It wasn't long, however, before the hospitality bug bit hard and he enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. Following graduation, he went on to hone his skills in restaurants across the country, including the acclaimed Gramercy Tavern in New York City and Merchants Restaurant in Nashville, where he helmed kitchen operations. But his heart longed for home, so it was inevitable that Rollison headed back to Hilton Head with his wife and proceeded to turn the dream of restaurant ownership into a reality. Lucky Rooster was born in 2013, giving Rollison opportunities for rich culinary expression. He also enjoys mentoring the next generation of South Carolina chefs, deriving satisfaction from "seeing them light up as they learn new techniques and experiment with flavors."