The Re-Reinvention of Matty Matheson

The pandemic has caused Matheson to rethink his priorities. He's now less interested in being a TV star and more keen on building a full-on food empire.

matty matheson burger
Complex Original

Image via Complex Original/Brian Park

matty matheson burger

Let’s get one thing straight: Matty Matheson is not a celebrity chef.

Or at least he’d rather not be referred to as that. For one thing, he thinks the “celebrity” qualifier sounds hella dumb—just call him a chef! For another, while he’s known for his unhinged cooking shows on TV and YouTube, he’s by no means making that celebrity money.

“I’m not rich, you know? I think a lot of people confuse fame and fortune,” Matheson tells me via a video call while he’s on the road. “Like, I’m a modest fucking dude. I’m the most modest, humblest narcissist.”

Matty—he of many tattoos, expletive-laden parlance, and larger-than-life energy and stature—has undergone somewhat of a transformation as of late. COVID-19 forced him to cancel all his paid appearances in 2020—he had about a year’s worth planned internationally before the pandemic hit—in effect decimating his cash flow. So, Toronto’s best-known food export went back to the cutting board. He posted up in his family home in Fort Eerie, Ontario, where he lives with his wife and three kids, and opened up a restaurant, Matty Matheson’s Meat + Three, just a stone’s throw away. Then he opened a burger joint, Matty’s Patty’s Burger Club, in Toronto. He also published a New York Times bestselling cookbook, Homestyle Cookery, and launched his own cookware line, Matheson Cookware.

Now, it appears Matty Matheson is angling to be the punk rock Chrissy Teigen. He’s looking to parlay his success as a cooking show host into full-on food empire. Except, while Teigen has become the queen of the social media overshare, Matheson says his end goal is to achieve enough financial stability that he can afford to one day fall off the radar. The pandemic has given him time to rethink his priorities; he’s less keen on being that screaming guy on TV and more invested in that quiet family time on his farm. Just as he uprooted his life a decade ago by kicking hard drugs and becoming a Vice Network star, he’s reinventing himself again. Call it a re-reinvention.

In a freewheeling conversation, Matheson—who turns 39 today!—tells us about his new ventures, his revised life goals, and his wild early days in the Toronto neighbourhood of Rexdale. The interview, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, is below.

So, you’ve spent the last few years as this globe-trotting rockstar. Now you’re back in the Toronto restaurant scene. Is this just a COVID thing or have you been meaning to return for a while?
I lived in Toronto longer than I’ve lived anywhere else in the world, you know? I moved around a fair bit when I was a kid and I was born in Nova Scotia. I grew up in Fort Erie, lived in Toronto. I have those three major places in my heart. And, you know, I think Toronto is still like my culinary home, you know? Besides opening up the Meat + Three back in Fort Erie, there isn’t any other place I’d really want to open up restaurants. I love Toronto. It’s the city that gave me everything, good and bad. But it’s not even like I was opening up restaurants—I was building out this whole other career and life that kind of presented itself, and lassoed onto that and rode that fucking wild horse for about five years. I’d been planning on doing restaurants again for a couple of years now, just trying to figure out timing and everything else. I’ve had this one project that I don’t ever talk about publicly, but it’s a project that I’ve been working on literally for four years in Toronto. But with COVID, Matty’s Patty’s makes sense. I can serve people a lot of food and I can do it in a safe way. 

Absolutely. The other project you’re talking about—that’s the place at the former MOCA location on Queen St., right? 

What can you tell me about that? 
Jack shit.

“I’ve got some real shit happening and it’s because I’ve had the time to pay attention and work on things rather than just flying around the fucking world.”

OK, OK. Fair enough. [Laughs.] Well, let’s talk about Matty’s Patty’s. They’re fucking delicious. What’s the story behind them?
The original Matty’s Patty’s was started through doing a pop up in Oahu, Hawaii on the North Shore, during Pipe Masters, the biggest surf competition in the world. I’d been out there a couple of years hanging out with everybody from the RVCA crew; Pat Tenore, the owner and creative director there, me and him were just like, “Man, we got to cook some burgers out here.” So we did the first Matty’s Patty’s pop-up a couple years ago at the skatepark in Oahu. We just gave away cheeseburgers to local kids. And then we ended up doing pop-ups. We did one in Shibuya and Tokyo and we did one in Toronto. And then time went on and me and Pat were like, “We’ve got to open up a burger shop!” I just wanted to practice making cheeseburgers again on a high level. And I got some friends that are working down in some of these encampments in the city, we’re sending cheeseburgers every day down to different departments. We’re going to continue to find ways to give back to the community in ways that we think are important, you know? I think that’s really what the fuck is good. 

I’m personally really happy to see all these amazing burger joints opening up in the city—Rudy, Harry’s, Aunty Lucy’s, now Matty’s. I’ve heard some people argue Toronto currently has the best burger scene in the world. Thoughts?
Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t really eat a lot of burgers. I think L.A. definitely has a massive burger scene that is really cool and really good. When I think of burgers, I think of my favorite burger in New York is at Joe Jr., this little diner on the East Side. And then in L.A., Apple Pan is my favorite burger. Those burger places have been around decades. It’s not the cool new spots. My dream is that Matty’s Patty’s becomes that iconic spot where the burger we sell today is the burger we’re selling in 50 years. That’s all. That’s my goal. I’m not really pressed about a bunch of people putting out burgers on fucking virtual cloud kitchen apps and all this stuff. I’ve got a brick and mortar and I want to be serving the same burger to my great grandkids.


Going back to what we were talking about earlier, it seems like you’re taking a break from being this jet-setting TV star. Some of that has to do with COVID, obviously, but what’s it been like? Are you generally just feeling like taking a breather from that lifestyle and anchoring yourself back in Canada?
Yeah, man. COVID has come at a time professionally where it makes a lot of sense. And just in a family sense, I’ve had a chance to stop traveling and being like Polkaroo around the world and really focus on business and really focus on things that have hopefully some more security. Like, I’m still paycheck to paycheck. I don’t really have a steady income, right? And that’s full transparency—I’m cheque to cheque too, man. So when COVID hit, I lost a year’s worth of jobs, straight up. An entire year’s worth of finance. And I had to figure out how to put it all back together. I don’t have, like, some massive team. I’m out here by myself most of the time. I’ve got two employees, you know? I don’t even have a manager anymore. I’m out here doing this shit. 

So the time off has just really made it very refreshing and very exhausting at the same time. Being able to be at home and start my garden and start producing vegetables is something I never thought I would love as much as I’ve loved. It’s really changed my life and made me really think about a lot of fucking different things. Just being home and having a third fucking kid is wild, man. So even though I lost everything, I kind of gained everything too. The garden has given so much hope and so much happiness to me and my family, that really makes a lot of shit make sense. It’s not about just chasing money and doing all this stuff. 

“I’m not even trying to be famous. I want to be fucking rich and then I want to disa-fucking-ppear! Like, I want to fucking garden.” 

And so what’s the vision now?
I’m just really trying to figure out how to make real businesses and have longevity. I’m trying to do shit myself. Just focusing on opening up restaurants, writing books, and kind of just controlling your own shit, you know? I’m cheque to cheque because I’m here just waiting for people to give me cheques to show up or do whatever the fuck I’m doing. And now I have the time to put some real fucking brick and mortar down. I’m on my way to kind of having both, you know? I never had the time before to sit back and really go in on all that shit. I’ve got some real shit happening and it’s because I’ve had the time to pay attention and work on things rather than just flying around the fucking world, you know?

Well, I guess your cookware line falls into that plan. I saw your first cast iron pan just sold out. Congrats on that. My cooking game is pretty weak but I would still buy the shit out of that. I already own your oven mitts. Are millennials who can’t cook your target demo?
During these times I think you need to learn how to cook. You need to learn how to brush your teeth. You need to learn how to clean your room. Like, that’s the thing, right? During the pandemic, with every single restaurant in the world getting decimated, people are understanding the value of cooking. And, you know, if people got the means, I got a cast iron pan that can help them out a little bit. And if not, go buy the cheap one. My cast iron pans are not going to be cheap by any means, but it’s not going to be overly expensive. I think it’s going to be very fair. You know, my first cast iron pan was given to me. And any time I bought a cast iron pan, I bought it from fucking Value Village, straight up. Like, there’s a reason why I only wore Vans my entire life, you know? I’m not out here trying to buy fucking $200 fucking Jordans. But this pan is something that warrants the value. It’s a designed item. It’s taken over a year to get it to this place. I don’t know if it’s the best cast iron pan in the world, but it’s fucking heavy duty—16 pounds with the lid on. We did this long handle on it so you can use two hands and it’s made out of knurled steel so that it doesn’t get hot.

I find it funny because in the comments, everyone’s going back and forth on the price. Like, I’ve been working on this it for a year and a half. I’ve been putting out free videos for you guys for like eight years. I don’t charge you for my videos. Well, how do you think I make money? Like, can you guys cash in every once in a while? Buy my stuff! That’s how I make money! Guess what, it costs money to make content. I pay for that myself. [Laughs.]

“I was this crusty-ass punk kid walking around Rexdale. It was pretty funny.” 

Yeah. Like you said, you’re cheque to cheque! I guess people see your face everywhere, they see it all over Instagram, and they just assume you’re loaded, right?
They think you’re like a multimillionaire. I don’t know if you realize this: Nobody wants to pay anybody. Like, I came from Vice, bro. You think they’re giving me big cheques? The biggest thing I’ve learned is fame is not fortune. You’ve got to go to work every day, man. And I’m not some hit YouTube star either. I get a lot of hits, but I don’t got 10 million subscribers where I’m making like half a fucking million dollars a year on just ad sales. I don’t have those numbers. It’s funny, your fans want to ruin you at the same time, or they think they’re humbling you. And I’m like, I’m humbled every day! I still go to work. I don’t come from some rich family. My mom still serves tables, man. I’m trying to do this for my whole family.  I wish I didn’t have to work this much! I wish I didn’t have to sell the things I sell, but I do. 


That’s interesting. So I guess the goal with your business ventures now is that you eventually won’t have to to hustle as hard, right? Talk about building out this cooking empire. Do you see yourself becoming like the punk version of Chrissy Teigen?
Well, I’m just trying to do what I like now. That’s all. And I’m in a position where I don’t really have to do anything that I don’t really want to do. Matty’s Patty’s is a good representation of things that I want to do. The pan is something that I want to do. I think as I get a little bit older, as I get a little more fandom, as I get a little more of my businesses rolling, I will be able to become more in control, more in control, more in control. You know, there’s certain things I’ve done that I don’t really want to do but I need money to do the things I want to do. But the more you compromise a little bit, you get a little bit more money and you take that and you do something fucking sick. And then eventually you don’t have to do anything anymore. So, I’m trying to build on that and get to a place in the next couple of years where I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do, truly. So I may say yes to more sponsored ads because I know I’m going to take that money and funnel it into a business that’s going to help me Jamie Oliver my own shit or, you know, be the punk version of whoever the fuck.

You’re trying to get that ‘fuck you’ money, as Joe Rogan would say.
I think a lot of people have misconstrued ‘fuck you’ money. ‘Fuck you’ money comes instantly the second you can pay your bills. It’s a choice after that what you do, because I make a choice every day to say yes or no to money. So I think, “fuck you’ money comes a lot sooner than people think. But does Joe Rogan have ‘fuck you’ money already with Spotify? I don’t think so. He’s still doing fucking ads for things. If I had real ‘fuck you’ money you know what I’d be doing? Fly fishing and gardening every day and not being on fucking social media. I would disa-fucking-ppear, you know? That’s my goal. I’m not even trying to be famous. I want to be fucking rich and then I want to disa-fucking-ppear! Like, I want to fucking garden. Or maybe not disappear, but I want to do the things that I want to. I want to garden, I want to paint, I want to be with my kids. I want to fucking fish. I want to turn the hobbies into the lifestyle. I’m just trying to take money, invest it in myself, and eventually I won’t have to take any money, and the money that I build with my own companies will be able to support everything that I want to do. That’s my plan: to stay kind of punk. I’m kind of punk now, but I’m not as punk as I once was, that’s for sure. 

It’s surprising to hear that you really just wanna be off the grid, because we’re so used to seeing you on social media all the time.
Yeah, but that’s the game right now. That’s how you monetize. That’s how you work. But for my retirement, I’d love to just make fun little gardening videos and cooking videos on my farm and just putter around, you know? Paint under some fucking spruce trees or some shit. That’s all I’m trying to do for real. 

Right on, man. That’s the dream. Well, before I let you go, can we talk about Parkdale? You’re kind of a Parkdale icon and I lived there for a while myself. Do you have any funny tales from the ‘dale that no one’s ever heard before?
I still I stay in Parkdale when I’m in Toronto, but I don’t know if I got any stories I want to share on here. I got stories. I lived in Parkdale for 15 years, man. I lived there when there was nothing. It’s my favorite neighborhood in Toronto. You know, I will say it’s super sad about Pete’s Corner Grill; they got kind of a bum deal, how that building got sold and they got kicked out. Old man Stavros sold the building to Dave’s Hot Chicken from L.A., which is fucked up. They already fucked up by doing that. Like, you guys are taking a space that was an iconic diner in Parkdale that’s been there for fucking decades. And you’re going to plop in? Like, they didn’t do their homework. You guys already fucked up. But Parkdale will always be my home. I lived in Rexdale and I lived in Parkdale, those are my two neighborhoods.

What! Dude, I grew up in Rexdale!
I lived at Islington and Dixon for like three years. 

That’s exactly where I grew up! Like, right at that intersection. That’s crazy. 
Martin Grove, bro. Let’s go!

So, did you live there as a kid or what?
No, for college. I lived at Islington and Dixon in the high rises right there. It was cutty as fuck. Yeah, I lived there for three years. 

Are there any favorite food spots you remember from your time in the Rex?
I was so fucked up then, so not really. I wasn’t really trying to find like a Caribbean shop or tuck into some Trini stuff. I wasn’t that aware of that kind of shit. I was still so fresh from Fort Erie. I was just trying to get fucked up. Whenever my parents would come visit me I’d get them to take me to like Outback Steakhouse on Dixon. Like, I wasn’t eating at restaurants! When I was a college student, we would just eat at home or I’d eat Mr. Sub or Taco Bell. I used to literally go to Taco Bell and buy like fourty Taco Supremes and just put them in my fridge and I’d eat them like little popsicles. Back then I was just going to culinary school, doing lots of drugs, and eating shitty food. I used to steal Mr. Sub every day from the Humber College cafeteria. It was so funny because you would get your sub and you could just walk out the way you walked in. Like, literally every day I’d walk in and steal a sub.

Wow, that’s quite the scam! And you got away with it every single day? Jeez.
Dude, it was crazy. I used to be a little klepto. I had this scam where I would go to the fucking Sheraton down on Dixon. I would literally take the bus down to the hotel, and then I would take a fucking taxi from the hotel to Humber. And I would say that I left my fucking wallet in the school and I would just walk into the school and I’d get them to drop me off at different doors at Humber so that I could just walk in and peace out. I used to like fucking steal taxicab rides every fucking day to school too. But, that’s when I was a shitbag. Don’t steal from taxi drivers. Now I understand people are working, you know? Have some respect. But yeah, that was 2000s shit, so a long time ago. I was this crusty-ass punk kid walking around Rexdale. It was pretty funny. I lived with three drug dealers in this super cutty fucking building. It was a wild time. I wouldn’t give nothing up for it. We were living the life, I’ll tell you that much. 

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