Executive Chef Grant Soto AKA Taylor Clarke
Last year "executive chef" Grant Soto pretend live-blogged the Terroir Hospitality Symposium, poking fun at the event and its participants: on May 12th, at the 8th annual conference on all things in the restaurant world (and open to the public), the irascible satirist of the food scene will do it in person. First things first: Chef Grant Soto is a fictitious character developed by longtime restaurant worker-turned-screenwriter Taylor Clarke, who's playful, yet blunt, jabs at the restaurant scene and its players rocketed him to Twitter-fame – he has teamed up with Just For Laughs to develop a Soto-inspired TV show – but has also made him a bit of a pariah within the industry. As he says: "I'll make eye-contact with some people, and they'll walk right by me."
Eater got Clarke on the phone to ask him what shenanigans he's planning for Terroir, find out the key-missing ingredient in Toronto's food scene, and which restaurant he prefers to take TV executives to pitch his shows.
You're an outsider and yet you've been invited to present at Terroir. Are you getting mixed messages?
It's ridiculous that I've been asked to do Terroir. Two years ago, I pissed off the elite foodie people so I just think it's really funny, cuz that's the establishment. There's a lot of people there I'm fans of, but also that I make fun of, and make jokes about all the time. But Arlene (Stein, Terroir's Founder and Chair) asked me last year to come and speak. I didn't even think she meant it. What am I going to go say? There's nothing they can learn from me. I'm an a**hole! So I said I'd make something for them. But I want to keep it mysterious.
Are you excited about Terroir? Who do you want to meet?
I'll probably feel awkward as hell, show up, and leave. But obviously I really, really, want to meet (David) Chang. I don't know if he knows what to make of me, or if he even knows if I exist. I think he's a really bright guy and the fact that Momofuku has been around for ten years blows my mind.
What is it about the food scene that inspires you as a screenwriter?
I think it's a really hard life. It's also one that insulates you from normal society: your weekend is Monday and Tuesday; you only end up hanging out with other restaurant people; and it's hand-to-mouth. You don't see enough of that because it's still glamourized, and in that there's drama. There's so much to it and especially with what's happening in Toronto right now. I don't think the scene has peaked yet.
What do you think the Toronto restaurant scene is missing?
We could have a little more fun. Everyone is too serious. The whole rock star chef thing is nuts. People are too image conscious. But I get it. They have things they want to protect.
You've ruffled many chefs' feathers so how do you butter up TV executives?
When I'm pitching a show, I take them to a restaurant. I don't like sitting in their offices. It sucks the energy out. Usually it's one closest to their offices but I've taken some to Marben.
What's up next for you?
I direct and awkwardly appear in a documentary series for TMN/HBO Canada called Reel Side, that will air sometime this spring, and features Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen. It's about those guys and my weird last year in comedy.