On Tuesday evening, the first reports surfaced that Captain John’s seafood restaurant—the landmark restaurant-on-a-ship that’s been moored in the harbor since 1975—will have to shut down by July 27 due to unpaid back taxes.
But just a few hours before the news broke, on Tuesday afternoon, four chefs spent several hours checking out the floating restaurant’s dining room and deck for a one-night pop-up dinner, to be held at the end of next month. It will be—or was supposed to be—an unveiling for Taylor Clarke, better known by the name of his fake Twitter character, chef Grant Soto.
An aspiring screenwriter with an idea for a TV show parodying foodie culture, Clarke created the Twitter handle in January to drum up hype. Soto, the main character of Clarke’s would-be show, wrote surly tweets mocking the city’s obsession with pop ups and celebrity chefs, with a soupçon of fratboy humour. He slowly gained a following, culminating in a $150-a-head charity dinner to be held at Captain John’s on July 25, with chefs from Campagnolo, Porchetta and Co., Hopgood’s Foodliner, and Parts and Labour.
“It’s my dream to bring my fake restaurant to life for one night on this marvelous boat,” said Clarke on Tuesday, sitting on one of the tables of the upstairs banquet hall, unaware the city had just shut off water service to the boat. Only he and the chefs were inside; “Captain” John Letnik, the 73-year-old owner (who also lives in an apartment on-board) had gone back on land for an hour or so. (You can watch our interview with Clarke and participating chef Craig Harding of Campagnolo in the video below.)
A sheepish young woman with an Eastern European accent then emerged at the top of the stairs and asked if the ship was hiring. She left her resumé on the bar; Clarke told her he’d give it to Letnik later.
As Clarke and the chefs headed for the exit, Letnik appeared, as his usual happy, grandfatherly self, asking if he could do anything else for them. Clarke mentioned the resumé as Letnik smiled and closed the door behind him.
Once news spread that the ship will be shut down, a shocked Clarke tweeted from the Soto account that the dinner will happen regardless. He’s currently looking into other venues.
And whether he can can get the deposit back.