After years running and owning Toronto restaurants,Matty Matheson became a sweary, fearless TV personality. Season two of his Viceland doc series Dead Set on Life launched in October. The restaurant magnate–turned–TV star talks about fame, stress and managing people his own way:
You’re often called a “rock star chef.” What does that mean to you?
“Rock star” anything is kind of a stupid phrase, I think. I guess it has to do with being famous. To me, a chef is someone who works in a kitchen full time, who leads a brigade, so I don’t even really fit the description anymore. I really don’t care if anybody calls me chef again.
Thanks to Dead Set on Life, you’re now a television star, too. Was the allure too much to pass up?
It helps my brand, it helps my finances, it definitely helps the restaurants in terms of getting attention. And it gets me to this place where I can say yes or no to things. I can do what I want. To me, that’s the goal.
What did you last say no to?
I get a lot of offers to do sponsorship and commercial work, and it’s a lot of “no.” If I work with a brand, it means I like it. That’s my rule. I don’t need to buy a Range Rover tomorrow. I’m thinking about the long game. You can shoot yourself in the foot real quick if you associate yourself with the wrong brands. It’s so apparent when people do cash grabs, and it’s so wack.
You’ve opened restaurants and launched your own TV shows. Which do you find to be more stressful?
A restaurant—100%. You’re way more vulnerable cooking than on a TV screen. People are in your place, and you have this one shot with them. And there are so many things you need to be on top of. You have to be a control freak, but you also have to be able to let go. It can really drive you insane.
You have been open about the years you spent dealing with pressure with booze and drugs. Now that you’re sober, how do you manage?
I have chocolate. Ha! Really though, once you’re out of that fog, the work just isn’t that stressful. For so long, I was the one who was causing the stress. Every day I was so hung over, which meant every little problem was magnified. I took out the biggest problem—my drug addiction and alcoholism—and all of a sudden I could deal with anything. Nothing is the end of the world. In kitchens you’re constantly putting out fires—you over-booked by 40 people, the dishwasher didn’t show up. I spend a lot of my time when I’m in the restaurants now talking people off ledges, and helping them to focus.
Sounds like your management style is pretty relaxed.
Anyone can yell or throw pans. You take five minutes and talk to somebody, you’ll get respect and you’ll get the best out of them.
You are the most popular Canadian chef on social media. What have you done to build an audience?
I think people feel that I’m a real person, just being myself. They like watching me swear and mess up what I’m making, and be very un-chef-y about food.
You post an awful lot of nearly naked selfies. Kim Kardashian would approve.
Ha! Yeah, I do that, and those photos tend to get a lot of likes. People also really love seeing me on the toilet.
You’re a new dad. Any advice on work-life balance?
Dads should take time off to spend with their families, and companies need to support that. I was lucky—I took three months off after [infant son] Macarthur was born. My wife and I went from a couple to a family. You don’t want to miss that.
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