Iconoclastic Chef Matty Matheson Is the Hardest Working Man in Foodbiz
The longtime Vice muse now hosts a show on YouTube, where he's taking things into his own hands
All Matty Matheson really wants is for you to know that yes, you, too, can cook a beautiful meal.
The convention-defying chef’s personality and culinary tastes were introduced to most Americans through appearances on Vice’s Munchies and the Viceland series Dead Set on Life and It’s Suppertime. Prior to his TV days, Matheson was known for both his cooking and partying as the executive chef of former Toronto-based restaurant Parts & Labour, but in recent years he’s become better known for being a dad and also one of the hardest working people in the industry.
With one cookbook down and another in the works, a massive following on social media and a trail of merch sold around the globe, Matheson has truly succeeded at creating a world unto himself. InsideHook caught up with him on a recent trip to NYC to discuss his absurdly funny show on YouTube, how the hardcore music scene impacted his life and his thoughts on a meatless world.
You’re making twelve episodes of “Just A Dash,” a cooking show which launched on your YouTube channel. How has going DIY worked out for you?
The DIY process is the greatest process I’ve ever been a part of. The way that I work with my friends is a very simple thing. To shoot 12 episodes, there were less than 10 emails exchanged. It was just like, send me your budget for all your rentals, I’m going to have a bunch of food ready, and we’re going to shoot it. That was it. We figured it out. I came up with the name like the day before we started shooting. There’s even an episode where I’m calling it “Just a Snack.” We shot the 12 episodes in six days. There was no director. There was no producer. There’s no one from network making sure we were doing what we said we would do. Complete creative free rein, good or bad. And even Vice was loose and it’s not like they censored me a ton. But I mean there were zero headaches. There was no one saying actually we need to cook it like this [on YouTube], or Matty can you find another dish, or anything. I was just going to cook what I was going to cook. Zero research, zero Googling like, What dishes are huge on YouTube? There was nothing contrived. It was just show up at my house, I’m gonna cook some food, you guys can do whatever.
I’m just telling jokes, making stupid scenarios up, being an idiot, and it’s just fun. I would say that stuff anyway, camera or no camera. The number of insane things I’ve said shooting Vice stuff was crazy, you know? So, it was an amazing experience in the sense of having no boss. Even though it’s my show, I’m paying for it, it’s in my house, it’s just like, we are making this together. It was a really nice moment in which me and my friends got back together and I said let’s go make a show. That’s it.
Recently you put out a double-LP on Roadrunner Records with recipes from your first cookbook and it comes with a zine of those same recipes. What was the genesis of that idea?
I just wanted to make a zine to repurpose my book. Then I thought, if I were to make a record, what would it look like, what would it be? And with Roadrunner it was truly a crazy privilege to work with them. Growing up I literally only listened to Sepultura and Machine Head and Madball and Type O Negative. It brings me back to high school. I’ve known Ricky Singh from Roadrunner for a long time and he plays in a New York band called Backtrack. He came to my dinner at Roberta’s when I was doing my cookbook and I was like, Man, I recorded the audiobook and wanted to put it out on vinyl. He was like, Fuck, we should do that. I was like, What do you mea … Roadrunner? It was another one of those things where I was very lucky to just work with friends. I don’t know any chef in the world who releases a double LP of their cookbook. You know? It’s just about doing fun stuff that’s actually interesting. And I love that it’s not about making money. I don’t think we’re really going to sell too many of them. But I think it’s because I never had a band and I was so connected to hardcore and punk and stuff, to finally have that project with Roadrunner is an amazing thing.
Speaking of which: the merch reminds me of old punk and hardcore shirts: Big graphics, sleeve prints and all. What’s your connection to either of those scenes?
Everything. Growing up in Fort Eerie, Ontario, a small border town to Buffalo, NY, I was privy to one of the greatest hardcore scenes in the world. Buffalo hardcore, Buffalo style. Going and seeing bands like Buried Alive and Every Time I Die … there’s so many bands. The scene was so good and just living close to Buffalo, it was just like Tri-state shit. I could be at Forward Hall in Eerie, PA, seeing a Disciples show or I could be in Rochester, Syracuse or go far enough to Albany. All these places had such strong hardcore scenes that it was just amazing. You just just drive two, three hours and go for a Sunday matinee show or whatever. Hardcore gave me everything. It’s who I am. It influences me, how I handle things, how I think about things, how I present myself. It taught me about unity, it taught me it’s not what people look like, it’s how they act, you know? It taught me amazing things. Act like you’ve been here before. Don’t act like an idiot.
So what’s your favorite Hardcore band of all time?
This past summer you held the fourth and biggest MattyFest in Toronto. How did that start and do you ever think you’ll take it on the road?
MattyFest started on my birthday in the basement of Parts and Labour and then I guess we put it to the test with [air quotes] The Power of Live Nation.
I don’t know, we’ll see. I still don’t know if i’m doing another one. I don’t know what that looks like. I had a good time, a lot of people showed up and I’m really proud of it. It was the most stress I’ve ever felt in my life because it was something so big, and it was the biggest food and music festival combined that’s ever been in our country. It’s just a lot. And it’s Mattyfest, but it’s also not Mattyfest. Mattyfest was in a small basement with 200 people with a bunch of my punk friends and folk bands. It was an amazing thing and I think we had the essence of it this summer. We even had some of my friends’ bands that played Mattyfests before. And I got to have bands like Jennifer Castle, Luna Li, fuckin’ Yung Guv, Daniel Romano and all these people playing on the same stages as Wu-Tang and Descendents, and Danny Brown. The whole experience was wild. It was very surreal to do something that large. I was just walking around it the whole time and it was the most stress I’ve ever felt in my life, that’s for sure.
It’s a very double-edged sword where I’m throwing a festival named for me and I’m trying to enjoy it by walking around with Mac [Matheson’s son] on my shoulders and I got a bunch of wasted bros trying to take selfies. My kids on my shoulders, I’m trying to live too. People are so obsessed with the selfie and getting the photo. And I totally get it, I do it myself. I do the same shit you know, like meeting John Mayer or Bob Weir. You do geek out sometimes. But maybe try not to ask for a photo the first time you meet somebody. Let it be an experience, let it marinate.
What’s the food scene like at home with your kids?
My kids are young. The youngest is just eating purees and stuff like that. Mac is almost four and he still just wants to eat macaroni and chicken fingers. He eats some proteins but doesn’t want anything green. He’s on the color thing. He wants to eat bland, unremarkable food. But Mac loves cooking and cooking with me. Everything is too spicy, even if there’s no spice at all. We have these step-stools in the kitchen and they love them. Kids just want to see you do anything. You could be fixing a car, mowing the lawn, doing whatever. They just want to be around you.
On Instagram you’re always saying that your wife Trish is the best cook you know. What lessons have you learned from her?
Simplicity. She’s such a good cook in the way that she does. She’s the best meat and potatoes cook and really good at making delicious squares and brownies and cakes, things like that. And her savory cooking is really impressive. She doesn’t add any kind of spices ever, just salt and pepper, if that. Even her craziest thing ever, she takes Triscuits, puts marble cheddar cheese on it, sprinkles it with garlic powder, microwaves it and puts pickled hot peppers on it. It’s one of the greatest things ever. She’s restrained and knows how to cook things very simply.
You’re always cooking and eating meat and even put out a collection of meat-loving clothes with RVCA Japan. Do you ever consider incorporating veggie or vegan meals into your cooking or adopting a veggie or vegan lifestyle?
People don’t realize that every time I’m making something I’m making veggie stuff. One of my last videos was steak and salad. I make steak and I make salad, and the salad’s a bangin’ salad. In the most recent episode I make duck confit with scallion pancakes and all these other little accoutrements. Instead of the duck, you can make like fried fuckin’ mushrooms or something. Even with my next cookbook, there’s about 150 recipes and I think there’s 42 vegetable ones. I don’t think about it as vegan or vegetarian. I just think of it as cooking with vegetables. Growing up most of my best friends were straight-edge vegan or vegetarian kids. To this day some of my best friends are vegans. And you can be friends with anybody and you shouldn’t let that kind of stuff get in the way, you know? The thing that I’ve been thinking about the most is legitimately trying to just not eat meat every day. I think if I can cut out meat two days a week and maybe try to just eat fish and vegetables a couple days a week maybe … I don’t know, I hate wasted meals and I’m always traveling and trying to eat at great restaurants and a lot of them just aren’t vegan. It’s tough because you know that it’s the right thing. If anyone in the world is eating meat and thinking that it was humanely slaughtered, they’ve got it twisted. There’s no way of ending a life nicely … you’re ending a life.
So, I’m OK with that because I choose to be and it’s the way that I just am. Anyone that is eating any type of meat or dairy … it’s not nice. I’ve taken lives, I’ve slaughtered animals. I understand what it is. And obviously if everyone on this planet started only eating vegetables it would change everything. Everything! Very quickly. If everyone just ate vegetables for just one year…
People might not be freaking out about beef in the Amazon.
Who knows about the Amazon. Everyone has so much information and everyone is so aware of everything now, it’s like OK … I think everything has been fucked for a while. It think the world has been just as racist and just as fucked literally since Day One, because guess what, we’re human. Humans are disgusting pieces of shit. We are parasites that are trying to destroy ourselves and everything around us most of the time.
If you could hang out with young Matty who just found what he loved and wanted out of life, what do you think he would he say to you now?
I think young Matty would think I’m a fucking loser sellout, straight up. Young Matty would not fuck with me. Me, 15 years ago? No.
What has changed?
A lot of things. I used to be a very negative, drunk, drugged-out punk and hated the world. Everyone was a poser and a loser. I was punker than you, I could do more drugs than you, I could mosh harder. It was just a lot of ego. The current me wouldn’t like me back then. I’ve got no regrets but I would not want to be in the same room as the old me. I was the guy throwing beers in bars. You know that drunk guy who’s being an animal? That was me, you know. Smashing pool cues and throwing pitchers of beer at people, and running and diving on people, doing whatever. I was a mess. And I was having fun, but I don’t know if the people around me were having too much fun. And now I’m a happy, successful human being that loves his family.
You’re stepping back into the role of chef of your very own restaurant. How do you manage your sobriety and recovery in that environment?
It’s easy [laughs] … It’s the same as anything. Everyone is like the industry, the industry. Drugs are everywhere — it’s not the industry. Drugs are perfect. Alcohol is perfect. They don’t have arms and legs and crawl inside of you. You’re the problem. It doesn’t matter if I was a doctor or anything else. I think it’s all human. Yeah, the industry makes it easier to do it. But no one is going to be drinking and working at my restaurant. There’s not going to be a celebratory beer at the end of the shift. You can wait 20 minutes, close up and go to a bar and have a beer if you want to. A lot of that mentality comes from you know, you get your ass kicked or you kicked ass, you still got a beer at the end of the night. Every single night I was rewarded with a beer, and then I wanted another and another. You don’t come here to work at this restaurant to get a beer or a shot or whatever. You come here to learn to cook and become a better chef and to serve people. We’re literally here to serve people. I want to be a part of that.