Matty Matheson knows he’s not your typical TV chef. Covered in tattoos and wearing his signature uniform of bright colors and trucker caps, the famously foul-mouthed Canadian rose to prominence as the host of VICE’s food and travel show Dead Set on Life. He parlayed that opportunity into hosting a second cooking show for the channel, It’s Suppertime; a self-titled cookbook; and a riotously viral presence on Instagram.
Most recently, Matheson set his sights on the world of music festivals, combining his love for music and passion for cooking to create MattyFest, an eponymous food and music festival in his hometown of Toronto. The inaugural MattyFest took place Sept. 7 in the Canadian city’s Echo Beach venue, with headlining sets by Wu-Tang Clan, Descendents, Gogol Bordello, Danny Brown and more.
Next up, the Canadian chef has a brand-new cooking show, Just a Dash, premiering Oct. 2 on YouTube. Billboard chatted exclusively with Matheson in the midst of shooting his second cookbook about what fans can expect from his new show, what he learned from putting together his first MattyFest and how he’s rethinking the concept of good festival food.
Give us a bit of background about your new show. What can an amateur cook expect to learn from Just a Dash?
Wow! I think an amateur cook can get, just like, inspired to make things that are maybe daunting. Is it really difficult to make a chicken fried steak really well? No. You know? Is making pho actually difficult? I don’t think so. You know, you put bone marrow and a half a brisket in some water with some lemongrass and some cloves. So I think with Just a Dash, you’ll be able to get inspired to dip your toe in the deep water, you know? And jump in and have fun with it. The way that I talk and the way that I cook is something that I find is very accessible with just everyday people. My whole thing is like, I try to talk the way I would if my buddy that doesn’t know how to cook calls me like, “Hey, I got a bunch of buddies comin’ over, tell me how to, like, make this, this, this and that.” You know? So I think that that is something that I’m genuinely kinda good at. And with this show I’m just continuing that.
How does the new show differ from what you’ve done for VICE in the past?
Well, I’m 100% in control. It feels amazing, I’m extremely grateful for everything I did with VICE and I wouldn’t be where I am without them. They took a chance on a kid making a cheeseburger video in his little one-bedroom apartment in Parkdale. But now, I figured out how to…you know, I’m unscripted. I’ve never had somebody tell me what to say ever in my life. I’m not an actor, I’m not anything. Everything I do is pretty much one take, anyways. I made the show literally with two camera guys, a sound guy and one food stylist/helper. That was the crew. So it’s just like me and my friends made this thing. We shot 12 episodes in six days in my house. And the craziest thing about it? I was just like, “Yo, show up at my house. We’re gonna shoot 12 dishes. We’re doing two a day,” and that’s it. There was no producer being like, “Ahh, actually can you do this? Actually we need this shot because there’s a brand involved. There’s this, there’s that.” It was just a bunch of buddies making stuff. It was a lovely experience.
Was there a reason that YouTube felt like the right outlet for the show rather than a broadcast network or other platform?
Yeah! I think that YouTube is for the people, by the people, you know? You don’t have to ask “When’s it on? What channel is it? Do I own a TV?” It’s very presumptuous to think that people have televisions nowadays. Who’s got a phone? Everybody. … The thing about it is, I’m pretty sure I’m just gonna be demonetized from day one on this thing ’cause of the way that I speak and how much I swear. So this is like my thank you to everyone. This is completely unfiltered; this is me being like, “I’m the guy who’s saying yes to everything.” … I’ve been doing this for about six years now and what I’ve learned is what lane I’m in. I want to make people laugh and I want to show people how to cook, and that’s it. I’m not trying to do these travel shows where I’m trying to identify with these cultures all around the world. I don’t think the world needs another white guy doing that. I want to cook and I want to make people laugh. Because I truly think that cooking builds self-esteem. And if I can get somebody to get out of their mold, get out of their funk and make a lasagna and by happenstance they get laid, then wow. This is a fucking vibe. That is an amazing lane to be in. I’m very happy with where I’m at right now and what I’m doing. And I’m doing it 100% on my own terms.
What’s the most exciting dish you made on the show?
I show how to make like a real pho, and that is something that is amazing. It’s kind of giving a nod to [Master] Rang, who’s a big part of my career and we’ve told his story through Dead Set on Life. Vietnamese food has such a big place in my heart because it’s kind of like the first ethnic food that I had. You know, I come from a very small farm town — that I live in now again — but moving to Toronto, I never had pho. I never had ramen. I never had dim sum. I never had Sri Lankan food or jerk chicken or any of that stuff. But I think my first love is Vietnamese food, outside of growing up eating, like, pork chops with mashed potatoes and canned corn. I think me making pho on the episode is probably the biggest takeaway for me…one of the nicest things, definitely.
Let’s talk MattyFest. You just pulled off your first food and music festival. How do you feel it went this year?
I think it was amazing! It’s crazy. First of all, the fact that I have my own festival named after me: crazy. It’s wild. I’m sure if you have looked at most of the press, there’s this moment where we ran out of food. And it’s a funny thing… Like, I think we threw the biggest, best food and music festival in our country … and some of this press, it’s so funny to me. Because people are like “MattyFest — it ran out of food. What was it, another Fyre Fest?” I’m like, why would they even mention Fyre Fest? I’m legitimately trying to have a festival in my own city — what are you doing? We served over 10,000 pieces of food. That’s a lot of food! … It’s like, fucking 8,000 people have the best time ever and there’s like 25 people that are like, “It was the worst, fuckin’ loser,” and you listen to those 25 people. That’s just the way our human brains are for some reason. But I think it was an amazing success. Like I’m so proud. Who has a festival in their city? Drake and me? It’s very humbling that Live Nation took a fuckin’ jump at that with us. And I think it was a success.
So as a chef, what is your personal connection between music and food?
I think music’s a big part of feeling good; I think restaurants are a big part of feeling good. Music’s been a massive part of my life. Growing up in the punk/hardcore scene and going to shows at a very young age, music’s my thing. Truly, I got free tickets to the Super Bowl and didn’t even go. I just don’t care about sports — I care about music and food and restaurants. It’s all I care about. … It’s just like a funny thing. I still dream about owning my own venue and just having bands play. And I do think that music and restaurants go hand in hand. Like, I’m really excited, I’m putting this really nice record player in my new restaurant — I can’t wait to have my choice of fuckin’ vinyl and have that music. Music is everything. It’s about making people feel good. Restaurants are food, tables, chairs, cutlery, plates, lights and music. And people. You know, that’s it. And with food going kind of in spectrums, we need to design and activate and fuckin’ enhance people’s lives.
At lots of other music festivals, food always seems to be a secondary priority at best. What’s your way of amping up festival food?
Letting chefs cook what they want and not curating it. People have this idea — even when I started, I was like, “We’re gonna make it…I want to curate things.” And then I’m like, “I’m not gonna tell all these chefs what to do.” Instead I was like, “Yo, what would you want to eat? What would you guys like at a festival? Make that.” I want just restaurant-quality food. Don’t make Instagram food. Please don’t make ooey-gooey, stupid deep-fried bullshit Instagram food. Make something that is truly delicious and that is not gonna be more than 15 bucks. … I could’ve gone the other way and had all the ooey-gooey, fried chicken, triple sandwich, fuckin’ whatever. But I was like, “Yo, we’ve got people rolling fresh raviolis.” Like [Toronto restaurant] Famiglia Baldassarre was hand-rolling dough to order and keeping up. Where are you getting that? [Laughs] We’re selling hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of raviolis, rolling them by hand, filling them. When I think about it, it’s actually beyond amazing. Like it doesn’t happen. $12 for fresh raviolis to order? Show me the festival where that is. I’d love to see it. And that wasn’t even the plan! That’s just what the chef showed up with. It’s because of my friends that MattyFest was such a success. My fuckin’ friends showed up and they made really great food. And the bands, really good music.
Speaking of really good music, what are you listening to these days?
[Sighs] You know, I’m just deep into fuckin’ Laraaji. Just trying to calm myself. I think I’m just gonna listen to, like, chime music right now. A lot of chimes. I don’t know! I legitimately listen to hardcore and, like, Grateful Dead and Laraaji. [Laughs]
Give me your dream lineup for next year’s MattyFest.
I know it’s way out of my budget, but if I could have Neil Young. If I could have Sleep. Brockhampton. I think Tyler, The Creator would be amazing. I just want to have everything. Get Solange. Like, why can’t we have all the big artists play the cool small fests? I want to try to find that balance. … Imagine watching Neil Young with 10,000 people and Solange. That’s the kind of thing that I’m trying to find and to make. That’s my goal with MattyFest. If I can get Solange and Neil Young with 10,000 people, and find that sweet number and have handmade raviolis and vegan cupcakes and a dessert bar and hot chocolate everywhere, I’d be very happy.
Watch the trailer for Just a Dash below.