Thunder Bay

Torontonians mourning the loss of social media star from Thunder Bay

Taylor Clarke made a name for himself as a satirical Instagram personality named Chef Grant Soto who skewered Toronto steroetypes and roasted restaurants that treated employees badly. 

Taylor Clarke made a name for himself as a satirical Instagram personality named Chef Grant Soto

Friends of Taylor Clarke, a.k.a. Chef Grant Soto, are raising funds for a memorial fund for the social media personality. (gofundme.com)

Members of Toronto's culinary community are mourning the loss of a social media star who came from Thunder Bay, Ont.

Taylor Clarke made a name for himself as a satirical Instagram personality named Chef Grant Soto who skewered Toronto stereotypes and roasted restaurants that treated employees badly. 

Clarke died on the weekend of an alleged accidental drug overdose. 

Derek Lankinen, the executive chef of Signature Steer in Thunder Bay, went to elementary and high school with Clarke and said Clarke always made a point of visiting his restaurants while in town.

"I was super surprised — just shocked," he said, describing his reaction to news of Clarke's death.  "He always was such a nice guy.  He always tried to bring levity to everything he was being a part of and always tried to poke a joke whenever it was appropriate — even sometimes when it wasn't really appropriate, but you always knew it came from the right place."

Clarke didn't just make fun of the restaurant industry, friend Hassel Avilas told CBC Toronto's Here and Now; he also poked fun at Toronto neighbourhoods and talked openly about mental health issues.

"He was really adored, and he had such great relationships with so many chefs in this industry," Avilas said, noting that two friends, including author and restaurateur Jen Agg, have launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for a memorial fund.

"I just loved his account," she said. "It made me laugh harder than most things make me laugh. And I mean, I've lived with mental illness for a long time now, so I really always appreciate anyone that can make me laugh that hard."