The only thing bigger than Matty Matheson is his enormous passion for great food, which he'll be bringing to Australia for the Beer & BBQ Festivals in Sydney and Adelaide.
The rogue Canadian chef commands an Instagram following of nearly 400k, successfully building a reputable brand around his larger-than-life personality and unusual takes on ordinary food.
What makes Matty such a loveable and appealing character? In a July 2016 article on torontolife.com he had a very simple answer to that question for Courtney Shea. “I’m a big guy doing funny sh*t.”
It’s hard to argue with that. It's been the running premise of most American sitcoms since 'The Honeymooners', sans Jackie Gleason's casual threats of domestic violence ('bang zoom, straight to the moon!').
"I know how to make television."
Matty will be in Australia as part of the Beer & BBQ Festival being held in Sydney and Adelaide in late June and early July respectfully, where he'll be sharing his love of Australian produce and people by cooking some of his BBQ favourites.
His popularity in Australia has been driven primarily by his various television shows aired on SBS Viceland, namely 'It's Suppertime' where he shows viewers how to make some of his favourite dishes.
Then there's his other show, 'Dead Set On Life', in which he travels around the world engaging with different culinary and cultural traditions, from bison ranchers in Alberta to French chefs in Hanoi.
“I’ve been making stuff with VICE almost four years now,” he told Shane Cubis in a November 2016 interview with sbs.com.au. “It started with hangover cures, where I used to drink and party,” he says.
“Then 'Keep It Canada', the how-to videos... and now 'Dead Set On Life'. I’ve been doing this a few years now, and now it’s time to f$%^ing make a bigger show, a better show than anything I’ve ever done before.”
But 'Dead Set On Life' is no mere travel or cooking show; it serves as a vital insight into Matty's personal life and the troubled path that shadows his incumbent success. “It’s a show about meeting people, eating food, having a good time,” he told Tessa Akerman in a February 2017 interview with The Australian.
“A lot of different things happen in people’s lives and a lot of people have to make decisions that change their lives forever in a negative or positive way, and I think each season we get deeper on that. I know how to make television; I learn from my mistakes, our team learns from our mistakes.”
Matty's rise to celebrity chef super-stardom grew out of a need to escape a harrowing cycle of extensive alcohol and substance abuse that almost killed him, with a typical daily intake that started with beer for breakfast around 11am and would escalate over the course of the evening to include multiple grams of coke and copious amounts of whiskey.
Basically, he was the Hunter S. Thompson of the chef world.
In his late 20s, Matty succumbed to his cocaine-and-whiskey, hard-partying diet and suffered a heart attack, but it did little to quell his hedonistic hunger as he explained to Shane Cubis. “I had a heart attack at 29, after 10, 15 years of partying hard,” Matty reveals.
“Being a chef, working in the culinary industry, everything caught up with me.
“I took that as a gold flag of doing more drugs and drinking more. About a year-and-a-half after my heart attack is when a few of my buddies got together, had an intervention and I listened. I was over it. I didn’t want to f$%^ing live like that anymore.”
An essential motivator for Matty's lifestyle shift was the birth of his son Macarthur with wife Trish Spencer, the pair of them having been together since they were teenagers. “Yeah, it’s better than any f$%^ing party; better than anything I’ve ever done,” he told Shane Cubis about becoming a father.
“Better than any amount of cocaine I’ve ever sniffed. All of the drugs I’ve ever put up my nose don’t even come close to like how I feel – the love I feel. Whatever I was chasing, it was ridiculous compared to what I feel for this kid.”
Though fatherhood has helped curtail his hunger for excess, it certainly hasn't dulled his enthusiasm for life and the positive outlook he exudes.
After championing Australian cuisine for so long, Matty finally made his first trip Down Under last year, telling Guy Davis in a 2017 interview for sbs.com.au: “Melbourne as a city is so beautiful, so social – I love the vibe here.
“It has a Toronto vibe. People were claiming Sydney was like Toronto; I have to say it isn’t. It’s a lot like L.A., and not only because you have to drive everywhere!
"Toronto is a flat grid and Melbourne is much the same, and the different neighbourhoods are very similar to Toronto’s. Fitzroy is a lot like Parkdale [Toronto], where I live, so I feel very, very comfortable.”
For anyone who won't be able to attend the Beer & BBQ Festivals in Adelaide and Sydney to learn from Matty in-person, here's some helpful cooking advice for beginners that he imparted to Yang-Yi Go in a December 2017 interview for The Title Magazine.
“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,” he says.
“In your pantry, never cheap out [sic] 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 f$%^? 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 f$%^ing time capsule. It’s dead.”