Everyone has a crazy story. A story from their life that, when they tell it at parties, leaves the entire room jaw-slackened. It’s safe to say Matty Matheson has a few. The tattoo-laden, loudmouthed Canadian chef and TV star has a larger-than-life stature outmatched only by his larger-than-life personality. Although he’s left behind his days of debauchery (thanks to a heart attack at the tender age of 29), he still leads a wild life, travelling the world to discover new cultures and building an indie food-media empire replete with two cooking shows (Just A Dash and Eat Out America, co-hosted by Benny Blanco), a podcast (Powerful Truth Angels, co-hosted by BornxRaised’s 2tone), a tradeswear clothing line, a music festival (MattyFest), and a new cookbook (Homestyle Cookery). (He’s also somehow gotten even louder over the years).
In this episode of “Spicy Story,” Matheson fixes himself up a Canadian classic—a virgin Mott’s Clamato Caesar—while regaling us with the hot tale of how he caused an explosion at a wedding and nearly blew his face off. Watch his story above, then read our chat with Matty about his incredible rise, hanging with the Wu-Tang Clan, and why you should never, ever call him a ‘rock star chef.’
How’s self-isolation been going for you?
I’ve spent the last four or five years traveling pretty extensively and being home very little. So it's been such a silver lining because I've never been home this long, ever, as long as my children have been alive. It's wild because of everything that's happening and because of business, but on a family level, being self-isolated here on my farm has been great. I've gotten to do a lot of things that I've always wanted to do. I've gotten to spend time with my family like I've never, literally have ever done. So, it's been kind of this weird blessing.
You’ve got so many different projects on the go this year: cooking shows, a podcast, a clothing line, a second cookbook. When you first started as a chef, did you ever think that you would become this persona?
No, no, no, no. I never definitely had this big plan. I still don't. It's funny: I'm one of those people who’d rather do three things and have one thing stick really good, you know? And when I was just a chef, I'd say I was just a chef—I opened restaurants, closed restaurants, had wins, had failures, had a lot of losses. And then I just started doing stuff for Vice and doing cooking videos. Stuff I never thought, never once, that I’d ever do, because there was no lane for people like me, who talk how I talk. I could never be on Food Network. I could never be on television. I could never be on anything, because I talked the way I talk, and I'm not really willing to do anything else. Also when I was just a chef, there was nothing else to think about—there's a lot of work that goes into it for your mind to not be 100 percent focused on those things. So, you know, I certainly wasn't thinking about any of this. I didn't think that I would have clothing lines. I certainly didn't think I'd ever have a book, that's for sure.
You mentioned when you were just a chef, it was hard to focus on anything other than being a chef. So how did that shift happen, when you said, “OK, I’m a chef but I’m gonna start looking at other avenues”?
Well, I made one little cheeseburger video. It was something new that I'd never done before, I liked it, and I got paid—you know, for that first video, I got paid 500 bucks and it was the most money I’d ever made in one day in my life. That's wild. Sometimes I'd work for two weeks at a kitchen back in the day and I'd get a check for $700 for two 80-hour weeks. So for me, all of a sudden, it was this new financial thing. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ Because at that time I was trying to pay back a lot of my debt—and I definitely took on a lot of debt being the mess that I was. When I made that video, I was just like, “Damn, if I could just keep making these little videos…man, Vice, let's make another video!” We were just like, making content before it was content, you know? We were just making cooking videos, and when that became greater than the restaurants, I left the restaurants—I didn't own them, anyway. I still love all the guys that were involved and still think of myself as a partner, but I wasn't truly a partner, you know? So when the content became greater than the restaurants, it was just easy to be like, okay, well, I don't need that job financially and—I'm being extremely transparent—you could make more money in one day than I could in a week of work. So why would I spend a week doing what I was doing, if I could just make a show like Dead Set on Life and travel the world with my friends, you know? The whole crew's my homies, anyway.
"[Raekwon] was just like, “You the chef?” And I'm like, “Yeah.” And he was just like, “I'm the chef.”
What was your goal with your cookbook, Home Style Cookery?
My goal with Home Style Cookery was just to write a basic kind of home cooking book. I want people to have stepping stones and building blocks to build their own repertoire, to get excited about food.... like I'm shooting this whole show and half the time, I don't even have the same ingredients, because guess what? In my town, I can't get the same ingredients I could when I made the book. Cookbooks are just ideas. Like, if you don't have tarragon, use parsley, you know? If you don’t have chicken, can you use pork? Sure. Could you use mushrooms instead of both? Sure. You can literally put anything together and if it's seasoned properly and cooked properly, then it will taste good. I want this book to be what you guys start trying to build your kind of culinary stories around, because there's a lot of people that have started cooking because of me or because of whatever. People just get stoked on cooking. If I can just get people excited to cook, that's it! Cooking makes you feel good. It builds self-esteem. It's an easy win. Life is kind of crazy, and if somebody can cook a meal for somebody at home or if somebody can cook for themselves and it makes them feel better, that's sweet.
We wanna know your take on a Canadian classic: the Caesar. How do you take yours?
How do I take my Caesar? I take my Caesar like… Mott’s Clamato is kind of just all I want, to be honest. [Laughs.] I don't like when people put a ton of stuff in it. I don't need you to put 15 different things into it. You know, it's really nice. I love a good, spicy, peppery rimmer. I like a little bit of acid. A little bit of spice, maybe a lot of spice sometimes, and some good little vegetables. I definitely don't want, like, half a cheeseburger and 16 sausages sticking out of my Caesar. You know, I just want my Caesar to be like... Maybe a fresh shucked oyster on top or something? Maybe? But when I think of Mott’s Clamato and Caesars, I just want the Mott’s Clamato. Like, the product is good. That's how I would take it.
Tell me about the rimmer. What goes into yours?
So I made a rimmer, which is really easy to make—I don't know if people realize that. And it doesn't just always have to be celery salt. You know, I had Sichuan peppercorns, I had some cumin seed, I had some fennel seed, I had some coriander seed, I had some beautiful sea salt from Newfoundland. I believe that might be it. And then just ground it all up and you're gonna get some numbing from the Sichuan. You're gonna get some peppery from the pepper. You know, that cumin, that fennel, that anise—all that kind of stuff is just really nice and can go with anything. You're having that rich, acidic Mott’s Clamato with that and then we added that little beautiful vinegar with the sliced chilies and the fresh spring onions. And you could use garlic in that if you wanted to, or like shallots really easily. But for the rimmer, I just need a little bit of acid, a little bit of heat, and some pepper.
Last year, you launched your own music fest, MattyFest. This year, unfortunately, music festivals can’t happen. But hypothetically, if there were to be a second MattyFest, who would be on the bill?
If MattyFest could happen, because it's obviously not happening, who would play? I always wanted like big bands. I'd love Neil Young. If Neil Young could play MattyFest, that'd be epic. I really wanted Sleep to play, but they couldn't do it. Slayer. Lots of folk and heavy metal stuff. I’d get Jennifer Castle to play again; love Jennifer Castle. I don't even know! It's not even about… well, it is about who played. Like, having Wu-Tang play your festival is pretty cool, I'll admit. Meeting them was pretty sweet. Nice people. They were really friendly. Raekwon was like so funny. He was chirping me about being a chef. It was pretty funny.
What did he say to you?
Me, him, and Ghost, we were all hanging out backstage. And it was so funny because one of Raekwon’s dudes was just like, “Hey, where's the chef at?” And I was like, “I think I'm the... maybe me?” And he was like, “Yo, Rae wants to meet you.” And I was like, “OK cool.” Because I'm not trying to walk in their room or anything, but they were all outside just waiting to go on. So I just I walked over and it was so funny: Rae was just like, “You the chef?” And I'm like, “Yeah.” And he was just like, “I'm the chef.” [Laughs.] And I was just like, “Yeah, yup. You’re the chef.”
How do you feel about the term 'rock star chef'?
I’m not a fan of 'rock star chef.’ I'm not a celebrity chef. I'm Matty. That's it. Like, what do you want? I do a lot of things that aren't cooking. I do whatever I want to do. I like something, I'm gonna do it. I'm an author. I'm a chef. I'm a celebrity... like ‘celebrity chef’ doesn’t make sense to me. Are there celebrity doctors? Are there celebrity cameramen? Are there celebrity fisher folk? You're a chef. I work really hard on press and stuff to really take out ‘celebrity.’ I always just want ‘chef.’ If you're gonna put ‘chef’ in, I don't need you to say I'm a celebrity. What does that mean? If you like me, you like me. If you don't, you don't. I don't need titles like that. I think that’s because I’ve always been kind of punk. I was never the chef who needed his cooks to call him ‘chef.’ You know, I’m Matty, can you cook good? I just want to make sure everyone’s cooking good.