Monday, February 13, 2012

My Interview with "Culinary Legend" Chef Grant Soto

Where do I begin? 

My first encounter with Chef Grant Soto was back in early January when I was at the airport in Utah waiting to board my plane to Wyoming for a business trip. With a few minutes left to spare, I took out my phone, checked Twitter and saw this:

"Chef Grant Soto followed you"

With a mention from him to me: 

"Come visit my restaurant!"

Interesting. I then checked his profile:

"Toronto, Canada: Executive Chef / DJ / Fashion Designer / Co-Owner of Gravitas Restaurant. Culinary Legend. Before me, Charcuterie was just meat." 

My first thought was "LOL! Is this for real?" Anyway, before I had time to look him up it was time for me to board so I quickly replied "Sure. Would love to!".

Sometime after I landed, I Googled "Gravitas Restaurant Toronto". Search came up with nothing. Hm...maybe the "Gravitas" is too new? I then tried Googling "Chef Grant Soto". Also nothing.

Shit...I think I've been had! O_o

Whatever, not holding any grudges, I continue to follow Chef Grant Soto on twitter. Why? Simply because his tweets are raunchy, gross, yet hilarious! Best thing is that he's local so he occasionally pokes fun at Toronto chefs, restaurants and the industry. I no longer cared that he is a fictitious actually became why I love him even more (Amy Pataki professed her love for Chef Grant Soto in today's Toronto Star).

Chef Grant Soto'sTwitter avatar

What caught my eye though were a few times he tweeted about food bloggers, specifically Asian food bloggers. Being one myself, it is no surprise that I found those tweets extra amusing (for those who may not know, the majority of food bloggers in Toronto are Asian females...don't ask me why). Here are some of Chef Grant Soto's tweets re: food bloggers:

I decided to contact Chef Grant Soto on Twitter because I was extremely curious about what he thought of the food blogging community in Toronto. We talked on the phone for an hour....

Me: "Both your publicist and Julia Child's spirit encourage you to charm / court bloggers. How do you feel about that?"

GS: "I feel great about it. I went on an “acid vision quest” recently, I try to go on them 14 to15 times a year. It is important to cleanse your spiritual palette; I transcended time, space and flavour. At the end of the tunnel of light, Julia Child appeared before me. It was her, but not her, you know? I think she had her tits done in heaven. But I wasn't complaining because she looked good and who am I to judge if someone wants a procedure to feel better about themselves? So anyways, she hovered above me and said in her regal and wobbly voice "Embrace the food bloggers, young man, traditional media influence is eroding…and stop staring at my tits.”"

Me: "Interesting. And has it been working?"

GS: "I think so. Listen, I’m in the bubble of celebrity. It can be hard for me sometimes to see through this fame tornado I’m in. I’m told it is going well and that’s good enough for me. I always believe the positive things people I’m paying tell me."

Me: "You once said you have three weaknesses: Chouquettes, Wild Turkey bourbon and Asian Food Bloggers. Can you explain a bit more about that?"

GS: "I had a wild night in Sudbury where I combined all three. Ever since then it has been just sense memory. When I get around any of the three I’m a goner. It is the reason we’re talking on the phone right now and not in person. I've been advised by my lawyer to “take a break for Gods sakes” from Asian food bloggers."

Me: "But how do you feel, generally, about Asians (particularly Asian females) being the majority of food bloggers in Toronto?

GS: "I think it’s great. It must be cultural. These bloggers have been helped me develop a
sense of intimacy with a new audience, specifically women. I went through a hard time last year when my SOTO BRAND “Ladies Hygienic Douche" was protested. Women objected to my face being on the actual douche and I can’t tell you how hard that was. I took it quite personally. It was a product I believed in and it served an important purpose. I really had to take a step back
and ask myself "Why I wasn’t connecting with women consumers? Why wouldn't a woman want to clean her vagina with my face?" I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t communicating my sensitive side to women. Building relationships with some of these female bloggers was a way to show that I am sensitive, I do have feelings, and I want that to be conveyed through every product I manufacture and endorse."

Me: "That's so sensitive of you. Have you had any good or bad experiences with Asian female food bloggers you would like to share?"

GS: "I did have one bad experience last year. An Asian female food blogger ate in my flagship restaurant “Gravitas” and did not enjoy herself. She went so far as to go beyond just criticizing the restaurant and take personal and professional swipes at me. I’m the spokesman for the National Bacne Association. It’s a role I take very seriously, speaking out for men with back acne. My role as spokesman has taken me all over the world and has made me a goodwill ambassador for the UN. I just got back from Africa and I have to say it was a real eye opening experience. Bacne has ravaged the backs of men all across Africa. They just don’t have the meds! It’s certainly opened my worldview. She mocked my role as spokesman and ambassador saying and I quote “The parsnip puree tasted like puss, no doubt a specialty for Chef Grant Soto considering the charitable foundation he’s associated himself with.” She crossed the line, plain and simple. My food is one thing but insensitivity and prejudice like that just sets the cause back years."

Me: "I'm sorry to hear that, Chef Grant Soto, I hope you know that she is not representative of the food bloggers in Toronto. Any tips you want to give to food bloggers in general?"

GS: "Yes, give yourself over the experience of the restaurant. Leave you’re preconceived
notions about dining at the door. Especially when you eat at my restaurant. Eat what I give you. Do what I say. If I invite you into the wine cellar you should come. If I begin to awkwardly massage your shoulders don’t tense up. If I strip naked and begin rubbing soybean oil over my body don’t scream and run away in horror. Go with it. It’s all part of the dining experience! You’re not there to critique the restaurant, you're there to share your experience with your readers. Comments like “Is that as big as it gets?” and “Are you going to stop crying?” doesn't help my process as a chef. Just ride the wave."

Me: "Fair enough. What goals have you set for yourself that you still haven't reached?"

GS: "The big one for me is the opera I’m writing about Emilio Estevez. It traces his life and his amazing career. It covers the “Young Guns” 1 and 2 era through “Men at Work”, “Judgment Night” and of course climaxing with the “Mighty Ducks” series. He’s had such a rich and storied career that I felt the only way I could properly celebrate him was musical opera. I plan to workshop it and preview it in London next year before I bring it over for North American audiences."

Me: "Good luck! By the way, how did the "tweet-up" in your bedroom go the other night?

GS: "Not good, once all the Asian food bloggers realized that the event wasn’t exactly “food related” and that I was attempting to jump start an orgy they left! I was heartbroken. I ended up watching “Downton Abbey” with my pants around my ankles, eating some bad cotechino sausage and passing out in my bean bag chair."

Me: "Haha! Hey, where was my invite?"

GS: "The last time we saw each other you threw hot jus in my face for smelling your hair without your permission. If I had known you’d forgiven me, believe me you would have been invited. I had a platter with goldfish crackers and hot rods. It was classy."

Me: "Looks like I missed out then. Do you have a favourite food blogger in Toronto?"

GS: "Answering that puts me in an awkward position, allow me to say this, I’ll always have a weakness for Asian girls with big appetites. Oh and Amy Pataki".


My interview with Chef Grant Soto was an eye-opening experience for me. I now understand a lot more about him and gained some valuable insight into his thought process as a chef as well as an individual.