Culture

The affable chef talks airport food, the best music for cooking, and his new VICELAND show.

Matty Matheson Wants to Teach You to F***ing Cook

Matty Matheson is feeling a little small at the moment. Literally. He’s lounging on a massive tufted leather sofa in Vice’s Toronto headquarters—so massive, in fact, that his clog-clad feet are dangling nearly a foot off the floor. “Do I look like a child on this couch right now? Like a little baby?” he wonders aloud, before our videographer reassures him that his feet aren’t in the shot.

This couch concern is a real rarity for Matheson—in just about every other way, he’s larger than life. The metal-loving, tattoo-covered chef made his name on big, boisterous dishes—he’s been known to serve full pig heads on platters at Parts & Labour, his beloved Parkdale eatery—and his outsized personality. Last week, he premiered It’s Suppertime!, his latest series for VICELAND, a stand-and-sir cooking show that serves as the perfect vehicle for Matheson’s no-holds-barred approach to food and life alike.

We chopped it up with Matheson about the best and worst celebrity chefs—which you can watch in the video below—and went deep on the importance of cooking and whether a hot dog is a sandwich.

Your whole life is kind of in and around this neighbourhood, right?  

Yeah! My office is right up the street, and I live a few blocks away. I don’t leave Parkdale. It’s nice. I’m not travelling as much anymore, which I’m kind of stoked about. You become a slave to an airport. You eat way more shitty food on the road, because you’re always eating in airports and hotels.

Are there any airports that are actually kind of dope, food-wise?  

Hong Kong is crazy. The airport in Copenhagen is fucking sick, too. Every time I’m there, I go to this caviar bar—they have smoked fish, nice champagne, all that kind of shit. Usually, I’m there at the same time as a few chef buddies and we all smash.

You’ve been doing cooking videos online for Munchies for a while now. What was the impetus behind expanding it to a full studio show and putting it on TV? Why now?

All the stuff we did on Munchies is amazing—that’s how I started with Vice, and everyone can watch them because they’re online. So, in some ways, It’s Suppertime! is like going back to where I began. But also, trying to make a studio-based, stand-and-sir TV show is something I really gravitated towards. Those were the shows I loved watching growing up, because they were the only food shows out there. I wanted to throw my hat in the ring and see what the fuck happens.

Everything about the show—including the name—seems purposefully stripped down and unpretentious.  

This is my fourth show now—after Keep It Canada, Dead Set on Life, and Hangover Cures—and the names are always important. It’s like naming an album. It takes a lot of care to get the right one.

My parents are hardcore Maritimers, so we always called dinner “supper.” Whenever I hear It’s Suppertime!, I hear my mom calling to my brothers and me playing outside. It’s natural and genuine. It’s Suppertime! It’s punchy. It works really well. It makes sense. Sometimes, a good name is as important as the content itself.

It’s Suppertime! is arriving at this interesting moment, where it feels like food culture has never been bigger—people love watching food shows, looking at food Instagrams, trying new restaurants—but a lot of those same people have no clue what to do in their own kitchens.  

It’s crazy, like, even my two brothers don’t know how to cook. All they eat is fucking cereal. I don’t want people eating fucking cereal! I want people to cook! I don’t think people understand it’s a necessity. We need fucking food, so you should know how to fucking cooking. You should know how to do some things in life, and one of them is cook.

I think there’ll be something for everyone. Every episode, I hope someone just learns one fucking thing. I’m not doing crazy shit on this show. This isn’t internet food porn, like, Here’s a massive stack of grilled cheese with eggs and bacon and all this crazy shit. I’m showing you how to make building blocks. This first season is long—it’s more episodes than I’ve ever done for a show—and by the end of it, you’ll know how to make sausages, how to cure and confit duck, how to make your own salad dressing, meatballs, curry, hummus, cassoulet—all of these things. You can take these things, add whatever you want to them, and cook them at home.

Do you think there’s something specific about your approach to teaching cooking that makes it less intimidating?

I’m just me, talking the way I talk. Whether more people can identify with me than the people on larger networks, those kinds of chefs—I don’t know. I’m just trying to give people an opportunity to cook and make it accessible.

Honestly, the idea for this show really comes from all the text messages and DMs I get from people going, “Yo, how do I make this?” or “How do I do a pot roast?” Most of the time, it’s still that classic thing: “Yo, I’m gonna cook for a girl. What should I make that’s not too heavy or too light that will impress her? I want to do something sick.” Now I can say, “Yo, I’ve got an episode for that.”

There’s a moment in the first episode where you and your friend Rob Gentile [executive chef at Toronto restaurant Buca] get into a disagreement over whether or not to use sugar in tomato sauce. That kind of speaks to the show’s central tension—a lot of people out there think there’s only one proper way of doing things, and you’re here to say that none of that really matters.    

A chef said to me in cooking school, “I’m giving you a bunch of keys. You can go in and open up whatever door you want, and whatever you do inside of that room is up to you.” That’s what I’m trying to do: just give people some inspiration to cook, and if they want to add whatever they want to the recipes, that’s up to them.

My parents aren’t Italian, so I grew up with mushrooms and green peppers in my spaghetti sauce. It was more like chilli. Everyone has a different fucking family. Everyone has a different rotation of dinners that they ate and are really nostalgic to them—that’s what their culinary tapestry is made up of. I’m just sharing some of my own, and hopefully people will identify with it and it’ll inspire them to cook.

If people do get inspired by your show to cook, what are the essentials they need in their kitchen to get started?

Equipment-wise: You need a good, proper knife. A good cutting board, a good pan, a good spoon. If you have those four things, you can kind of get by in the kitchen.

In your pantry, never cheap out on the basic stuff. Always get good butter, good olive oil, good flour. Good salt makes a really big difference. And real maple syrup—no disrespect, but there’s no Aunt Jemima in my house.

Also, don’t overbuy dried spices—just get what you need. That way you’re buying them more often, and they’re more flavourful, because they do go stale. I love going into people’s houses and they’ll have packets of cayenne from like 1970. It’s like, “What the fuck? You think that’s still good? You think you’re going to open that up and it’s going to be this big, robust flavour?” It’s like a fucking time capsule. It’s dead.

What about mistakes that beginners should avoid?  

Most people have shitty stoves, so they cook on high heat in shitty pans, and then they get really burnt and shitty food. If you have two or three really good pots and pans—like a Dutch oven and a cast iron pan—it doesn’t matter how bad your stove is, because if you cook on medium heat, that pan will retain heat evenly and you’ll be able to cook properly in it. Pots and pans are worth their weight. If it ain’t fuckin’ heavy, it’s not gonna do much except ruin your food.

Switching gears, quickly: You’re heavy into Toronto’s metal and hardcore scenes. What are you listening to these days?

Freedom’s fuckin’ good. Power Trip’s fuckin’ good. Turnstile’s really good. There’s so much good music right now.

What do you listen to when you’re cooking?

It depends. Anything from Cat Power to Lee “Scratch” Perry. I love listening to some dub when I’m cooking, so I’ll throw on Scientist. Now that I’ve got [my son] Mack, [my wife] Trish doesn’t like it when I put on heavy shit in the house. So, I’ll put on stuff like Frank Ocean—Mack loves that shit. If I put on “Nikes,” he’s goes all [smiles wide and coos].

One last thing: Is a hot dog a sandwich?

No. No, it’s not. A hot dog is a hot dog. A hamburger is a hamburger. A sandwich is a sandwich. Is spaghetti fucking soup? A really thick soup? No! A sandwich is, like, a bologna sandwich. It’s something between two pieces of bread. And a hot dog is on a bun.