If you’re interested in foodie land beyond cronuts and overstuffed mac and cheese croquette burgers, chances are you’ve come across one of Canada’s most notorious food industry exports, Matty Matheson.
Larger than life, the Toronto chef from Canadian restaurant Parts & Labour has burst onto international computer screens with his crazy and much-viewed Munchies videos, including How-Tos on frying chicken, making heart attack-inducing and utterly delicious steak and stuffed potatoes, and lasagna that is “guaranteed to get you laid”.
The thing is, throughout his chef career and in the earlier stages of his work with Vice’s food channel Munchies, Matheson was in the final stages of regular substance abuse. It wasn’t until he had a heart attack that he recognised the partying lifestyle was going to kill him.
Now completely clean and loving life with his wife and baby, Matty has got a brand new outlook and a brand new show – but still swearing like a drunk sailor. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
We had a chat to Matty about escaping the partying ways of the food industry, his new show Dead Set On Life, and whether he can still stomach fried chicken.
What led you to become a chef that does TV?
When Vice started doing food content, I was like, ‘I wanna do that’. I’d been friends with a bunch of dudes that had worked there forever, and then it just kind of happened. So we did hangover cures and how-to videos, when they [got some traction], we started doing the Keep It Canada show and now we’re doin’ actual TV with Dead Set On Life.
I think it was just a gradual progression in parallel with how Vice has progressed. I’ve just been able to be on that ride with them.
So how does Dead Set On Life differ from your other video content like Keep It Canada and your How-To videos?
I think Dead Set On Life is a little more thought-out; there’s a little more feet to it; it’s more professional in that we have producers and a director and a show runner and two camera guys and a sound guy. I think we did Keep It Canada with like two camera guys and a field producer and me and that’s it.
[Having a bigger crew] almost feels awkward, but as we’re going to crazier places and further away places we need a personal assistant, we need someone to bring gear, you know. It’s a funny thing how we kind of build and grow and yeah it’s cool.
But the internet stuff [such as the Munchies how-to videos] was crazy. Now it feels like we’re really trying to make a show. You know, I don’t want to be a flash in the pan. I want to make something that is honest, more vulnerable, you know, long lasting, but also funny. I wanna make a funny, fun show. I don’t wanna make some sad-sack, the world is horrible, here’s all the horrible stuff going on show. I want it to be a fun, positive thing.
I know that you’ve said you want to make a really anti-Food Network show.
So how do you avoid that model?
I think the Food Network has some amazing chefs but I just think that, for some reason, America, or the world, likes watching the same show, just with different people on it. It just feels like the Stepford Wives, you know… everything is perfect; everything is awesome.
And yeah, everything IS awesome, but you know, everything is shit as well. Like, it is what it is. And I just want to make a show that’s real. If something’s shit, it’s shit; and if something’s good, it’s good. And if it’s mind blowing, it’s mind blowing. With my show, everything’s real; there’s no weird scenarios that we like build up or there’s no producers tryin’ to fuck with shit.
Like, if we go hunting or fishing on Dead Set, sometimes we’re not successful. You know. And that’s okay. Like I went duck hunting for one episode, and I didn’t actually shoot a fucking duck.
Dead Set is about me experiencing the world through a culinary eye, and that culinary eye is bigger in some episodes, and smaller in other episodes. Sometimes it’s really food heavy, sometimes it isn’t, and that’s okay. Because we’re just trying to make an interesting show about me meeting people, seeing what’s going on, being around food, and I think that’s what’s genuine. I’m a chef, I love food, but it isn’t everything.
That’s fair. So what’s your favourite experience so far on Dead Set On Life?
Lots of things. I think it changes. I get to meet amazing people [from all over the world], people that are really great, and that’s really cool. I’m doing things that I’ve never done before. I didn’t grow up hunting or fishing, so the show’s really driven by stuff that I haven’t experienced. [On Dead Set I’ve done] a pow wow – and getting to put on regalia and participate in the pow wow was a huge honour. Obviously it’s funny lookin’, you know, it’s some white guy wearing regalia, but that was a cool thing that I got to do in my life.
I get to really live these experiences. I get to keep them. The cameras aren’t always on and I’m there participating and being active with what we’re doing. I get to travel and go to these places; I get to eat the food. And that’s the coolest part about the whole fucking thing. My crew’s awesome, I get to hang out with my dudes, and we get to travel and eat and experience things. Man. It’s the greatest job in the world, you know.
It’s living the dream.
For like three weeks we did two episodes in Vietnam, which was like fucking amazinggggg; it’s just like the most beautiful place. You go south of Saigon and it’s tropical, and then there’s deserts and I’d never been to places like that. I’d been to England and France and Denmark and the States and around Canada, but I’d never been to places like Vietnam and now I get to see the fucking world, man.
You had a lot of booze and drugs and partied pretty hard back in the day. So why do you think it’s so hard to avoid that lifestyle in the food industry?
Because everybody does it. You’re in the food and alcohol industry; you’re selling alcohol. And it’s just… with the type of person that I am and the restaurants that I worked at, the culture was chaos a little bit. And that’s cool; I have no regrets.
Though I think the restaurant industry is changing a lot right now, and its for the better. I think people are really aware of this kind of shit now. How things used to be aren’t necessarily right, and it’s not a man’s world anymore. You know. It’s like the bro culture of kitchens, it’s still very prevalent; but restaurants ARE changing for the better. When we first opened Parts & Labour, it was like the fuckin’ movie Animal House every night. It was really fuckin’ nuts. Every night I was partying, all the staff were partying, and we were fuckin’ maniacs. Legit maniacs.
Any band or DJ that came through, during the first two years of Parts & Labour, you know, we were partying with them. It was an amazing time; it was one of those things that was like, time and place. It was just absolute fuckin’ madness.
And then… ‘the brightest flame burns twice as quick’ or some bullshit. Everything has an expiry date and for me personally, it’s not a sustainable lifestyle. So [when I had a heart attack], I came out the other side luckily, and now, life is WAY better. So you know, back then, I just never knew anything else. I was kind of naïve and took advantage of our industry, and not having to pay for drinks in your own city is pretty good. You know, the industry takes care of each other, and I don’t think I paid for a drink in ten years in Toronto. And [when I was younger], that was like, amazing to me.
So how do you have fun now without it?
I’m in a different place now. I go to lots of shows, I travel a lot, I got a kid now and a wife, and everything’s amazing. My life is different and what I think is cool now is different. I haven’t had a drink in years. So a lot of shit’s changed.
So it’s just like, I’m 34 so I’m not tryna do coke or you know, mash around at fuckin’ bars all night. I mean, I gotta be up early. I gotta make sure that everything’s good. I just have different ambitions now.
I used to think it was about being at every bar and every opening and partying the hardest. As in, ‘I’m gonna do more coke than you, and then I’m going to work straight after and workin’ fuckin’ harder than you’. Like you know, that’s just kid shit. And then I grew up.
Now that you’ve travelled a bit more, has it given you a bit of perspective on Toronto food?
Yeah. I think Toronto food’s phenomenal. I think our restaurants are amazing; I think we have really amazing chefs and I think the cultural food of Toronto is fucking world class. I mean really, our Chinatown out in Markham, even our Chinatown downtown is fucking just as good as Flushing in New York. And we have amazing Sri Lankan food and Trini food and Jamaican food, and West Indian, East Indian, fuckin’… you know? So much Vietnamese food… we’re lucky.
The restaurant scene in Toronto right now is fucking killing it. People are really putting in some work and opening up some really great restaurants. I’m really proud of this city.
So what’s your favourite thing to eat and cook for yourself now and are you sick of squad fried chicken?
It’s summer here and I don’t like making fried chicken in the summer. I don’t have AC in my house so I try not to cook inside at all [during the summer months]. But I’ve been grillin’ a lotttttt… a lot of salads. At home, I grill some seafood, cut some tomatoes up, fuckin’… slice some fennel, throw some you know, wedges of oranges and grapefruit on there.
I mean like right now, I’m just eating kinda light. Instagram doesn’t really show all the shit that I’m eating. But fuck, you know, I like cooking everything. Somedays I’m just like, I just wanna roast a chicken. I wanna make some mashed potatoes, or make some grilled razor clams with tomatoes. I want pot roast. I want, you know, like, some fuckin’, Old El Paso tacos. Depends what I get a craving for. Like right now I’m at my in-laws’ house, and I’m gonna get some steak and some lobster and make like a lobster spaghetti and some grilled steaks and you know, just make some fuckin’ leafy green salad and just chill.
Yum. So what’s next for you Matty?
I think I’m coming down to Australia in January so watch the fuck out! Shout out to Morgie and Scotty down at Belle’s Hot Chicken! I’m comin’. We’re gonna be hangin’ out in January.
Oh awesome! What are you doing with Belle’s in January?
Well you’re gonna have to wait to find out!
Oh come ON. Tell me.
Shit’s gonna… I don’t know, what do you think I’m gonna do at a hot chicken place? Cook fuckin’ chicken, that’s what.
Make a fuckin’ salad.
I’m comin’ in and I’m gonna make a fuckin’ crudité.