Penetanguishene native head chef at Sofia, one of Toronto's elite restaurants


Growing up in Penetanguishene with four older brothers and the nickname Budwickle, it’s not likely anyone could have predicted where Rob LeClair would end up as an adult.

But the bilingual man of Métis heritage is excelling in the culinary field. He is currently the head chef of Sofia Restaurant and Bar in the Yorkville district of Toronto.

Toronto Life magazine featured LeClair, 49, his wife and two children in its June edition.

Now, A Day in the Life host Fred Hacker has arranged for LeClair to join him onstage at the Midland Cultural Centre Thursday, Nov. 14, for the live interview show.

LeClair came by his love of food naturally.

“My mom is the best cook I know,” said LeClair via a phone interview from Toronto. “She wasn’t afraid to do anything beyond the regular. She made her own spring rolls.

“My father was the gardener. He grew everything from Swiss chard to beans."

Holiday meals were pretty typical and always featured tourtière. His parents, Stan and Leona, recently celebrated 64 years of marriage.

Growing up, it was uncommon for the family to go out to dinner. LeClair said he never considered a culinary career when growing up.

It wasn’t until he became ill with Meniere’s inner ear disease — where he couldn’t eat and lost a lot of weight — that his career path became clear.

“I realized once I got it under control how much I like food.”

After graduating from George Brown College’s culinary program, he was hired at Le Papillon.

“They took me in and allowed me to just put my head down and learn very quickly. Within a matter of months, I was sous chef.”

He joined forces with chef Mark McEwan and opened three restaurants with him.

LeClair has been at Sofia, an Italian restaurant, for more than a year.

“I really like where I am now. When a customer really likes something and comes back, that’s the best compliment.”