Chef Matty Matheson is undoubtedly among the most animated personalities you’ll ever witness on-screen. Born and raised on the rough streets of Parkdale, Toronto, the young Canadian bad boy chef grew to international stardom after partnering with a string of wildly successful restaurants. From Oddfellows to La Pallete, Le Sélect Bistro and Parts & Labour, Matheson became well-rounded in the art of culinary perfection in a variety of restaurants spanning multiple cultural backgrounds.
Through his unstoppable popularity on YouTube and on two VICELAND series entitled Dead Set on Life and It’s Suppertime!, he’s amassed a loyal following of nearly half a million followers on Instagram while becoming one of the top-paid chefs in Canada due to his larger-than-life personality. But Matheson doesn’t care where good food comes from—whether it hails from a hole-in-the-wall gas station or from an esteemed five-star restaurant. His quest for the best grub takes him anywhere and everywhere, regardless of the eating establishment’s social standing. Only the taste matters.
Matheson confided with CULTURE about what you can find in his first cookbook and memoir, Matty Matheson: A Cookbook, which is due for release on Oct. 9, as well as his rise to fame and his thoughts on recreational cannabis legalization happening in Canada on Oct. 17.
You’re about to release your first cookbook. How were these dishes and recipes selected?
The book is broken down in a certain way—half of the book is family, and half the book is restaurants. The beginning of the book is about my dad’s parents and my mom’s parents, then my parents and my in-laws. My grandfather had a restaurant in Prince Edward Island, so it’s a lot of maritime food, a lot of seafood, some diner recipes and recipes from my grandmother, like chow-chow, mustard pickles and grilled beef tongue. My mom’s grandparents are Acadian, so it’s more like meat-and-potatoes-type stuff, roast and Rappie pie, an Acadian classic dish. Then my parents’ dishes are kind of the stuff that I grew up on. There’s a chicken curry broccoli casserole and mostly other family stuff. My in-laws are Irish and Italian-Canadian, so there’s Italian food and stuff like that. So, that’s the first half of the book—my foundation and where I come from.
Then, the second half of the book is all my restaurant stuff. I learned how to cook in French restaurants, so a quarter of the book is recipes from Le Sélect Bistro in Toronto, [Canada] and it’s been there for like 35 years. The other restaurant is La Palette, which has been around for 15 to 18 years or so. Then we get into Oddfellows, which was my first restaurant that I opened when I was 26. And then Parts & Labour is where we close it out. It represents my lineage so far, and then I kind of tell my story throughout the book and use these recipes to tell stories about my life.
You’ve hosted and produced multiple series on VICELAND. How did you end up connecting with some of the best film production crews in the business?
Through friends. It was really a very organic, unplanned kind of thing that happened. When they started doing MUNCHIES, like the very first MUNCHIES with David Chang, I started hitting up my dudes in Canada, because I’ve been friends with them since like the early 2000s, like 2003. VICE used to have stores. One of the stores was across the street from my bistro, so I’ve known all the VICE guys at the store. Before, VICE was just about drugs, photographers and sex, and there was never really anything I could contribute. And then when they started to cover food, I was like, “Me, me, me, me, ME!” And then when everyone started talking about VICELAND doing a TV network, they came to me and said, “You want to shoot a TV show?” And I said, “Yeah, let’s go.” We did three seasons of Dead Set on Life. And then I don’t think the world needs more white men traveling the world and trying to identify different cultures. So I said, “Why don’t we just try to do a really fucking crazy cooking show?” And they were down. And then we made It’s Suppertime! And we did 24 episodes of It’s Suppertime!
Dead Set on Life premiered on VICELAND in 2016. Recently, it received two Canadian Screen Award nominations. What do you think led to its success?
I just think that the thing VICE has done really well is give different people an opportunity, people that don’t really fit the mold of people that should be on television. I think that the way that I talk, the way that I look, and the way that I think about things is very different than a lot of people on television. I was up against some of the biggest shows in Canada, unscripted, and all of these award shows are very political. I didn’t win anything, because they gave it to the biggest shows—I think Property Brothers won. But it was funny, because it was Dead Set on Life up against like five home renovation shows.
“[My first cookbook] represents my lineage so far, and then I kind of tell my story throughout the book and use these recipes to tell stories about my life.”
Tell us about your new restaurant in the works.
It’s going to be the greatest restaurant in Canadian history. I really want to do this restaurant justice and let it speak for itself. I’m going to play this one close to my chest. I’m not talking about it at all. I haven’t said the name of it. I’m just lying to people, straight up.
But that’s exciting, right?
It is. It’s my first restaurant. I have a backer, obviously, but it’s my restaurant. I own majority. It’s my vision. My execution. I put together the team. I’m very excited to show my country to the world. I just want to get back. For the last four of five years or so, I’ve just been traveling the world a bit. I’ve set up a second career for the last five years. We’ve done Maker Pizza, which has been done really well. I’m really proud of Maker Pizza. But this restaurant is definitely going to be a “Matty restaurant.” It’s going to really show where I’m at. I’m a very different person than I was almost 10 years ago when I opened Parts & Labour. That’s for sure. This restaurant is going to shine light on who the fuck I really am right now.
You’re currently one of the highest-paid chefs in Canada. How did your decision to go to culinary school set yourself on the right path in your younger years?
I don’t know. Everyone has such a different path. I think going to culinary school helped me a lot. I think what I learned there I couldn’t have learned anywhere else. I really enjoyed it. I still stay in contact with some of the chefs. In high school I didn’t give a fuck. But there, I had to be on time. I had to be shaved every day. I hate being not on time. I hate not showing up prepared for anything. Some of the foundational stuff that cooking school has taught me has stuck with me forever. It will always be ingrained. That part of my makeup is a massive thing. Chef Bevan, Chef McCain, Chef McFadden. All of those dudes used to be a big part of why I am who I am. I definitely cherish the time that we had in cooking school. But other times, I’m like, “Cooking school isn’t for everyone.” And school maybe isn’t for everyone. I dropped out of my school. I got everything that I needed out of it. I didn’t need the piece of paper, but it certainly was a great experience.
“I think going to culinary school helped me a lot. I think what I learned there I couldn’t have learned anywhere else. I really enjoyed it.”
People trust your instincts when it comes to selecting a fine restaurant establishment. What do you look for in a restaurant?
I don’t know—good food? I love so many different kinds of restaurants. I love really fancy restaurants. I love spending a ton of money and eating high quality sushi. I love eating at Waffle House. I love eating at gas stations and getting chicken finger subs. I love the span of food and hospitality. I love going into a place and no one knows who the fuck I am. I just want the food to be tasty.
You’ve appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers and Last Call with Carson Daly. Do you constantly get recognized everywhere you go because of that international exposure?
Not really from TV but more from YouTube. They always say, “I love you from YouTube.” That’s the thing—everyone has the internet. I hate it when people don’t know who I am, but they know that they’ve seen me. I always find that kind of crunchy. People are always like, “Aren’t you that one guy?” I’m like, “Sure, but you don’t even kn
ow who I am?” Who gives a fuck? Wouldn’t you find that annoying? Like, if someone comes up and they’re stoked, fine. But I don’t want to tell you who the fuck I am. I’ll be enjoying a coffee. I was just in Copenhagen and some guys came up to me and said, “Hey, aren’t you that guy?” I don’t need to be your buddy. And I don’t need to take a photo with you. But if you like me, and know who the fuck I actually am, then I will take a photo with you.
Do you have any food-related tattoos?
No. I keep that separate. I never got tattoos because I’m a chef, I got tattoos because I was a punk kid who hated society, man. People always ask me if I have a knife tattoo. Why the fuck would I have a knife tattooed on me? Do you have like a pen and paper tattooed because you’re a journalist? Do you have a fuckin’ pen and paper tattooed on your forehead? Does a welder have a welder tattooed on their forearm? A lot of chefs do have chef-related tattoos, but culturally, I don’t have any industry tattoos.
When Canadians cross the border into the states, what do they think is the strangest thing about Americans?
Your fear. Your fear of impending doom on your country and that you have to destroy everything to feel safe while all of you guys are basically
destroying each other. It’s very similar. Imagine if Canada was as big as the United States. What are you guys, like 300 million people? There’s only  million in Canada. People ask why we’re so happy. We’re happy up here because we’re not crawling over each other. I think that’s what makes the culture different. When we go into the states I just find it different. I love the United States, though. Americans are American, like they’re extremely proud. We go other places, and people are more reserved.
Recreational cannabis is becoming legalized in Canada on Oct. 17. What is your opinion on Canada embracing the plant?
It’s just another thing for people to regulate, control and make money off of. People are going to be high, and they’re going to treat it the same way as alcohol. If you get pulled over, and you’re fuckin’ faded from three blunts, then I’m sure you’re going to get in trouble. I haven’t done a lot of research into it. I definitely don’t smoke weed. It’s just another legalized substance. People are doing it anyways, and I don’t think [legalization] is going to make more people smoke weed. If you want to smoke weed, do it, and if you don’t, then don’t smoke weed. People do drugs. Some people are successful with it and others are not. It depends on the person.
What are your plans in the next upcoming several months? What can we expect?
My cookbook comes out Oct. 9. We’ll be doing a pretty good American tour. We’re doing a Canadian tour. We’re doing an Australian tour. All that stuff. We’re pretty much booked until Christmas. And then my restaurant will hopefully open in April/May, and that will take up the rest of my year. But everything changes so fast, so who knows? The concrete events include my new restaurant opening in 2019 and my book release. I’ve got a new baby coming, so I’ve had a little bit of family time. This year was pretty chill, but next year will be amazing.