Chef Matty Matheson Talks About His First Food Memories, Cooking for John Belushi and Eating Pho Ga For The Rest of Eternity

Matty Matheson is a chef. He’s famous and beloved for his no-holds-barred, sailor-mouthed, mustachioed personality. Also because his food is really, really delicious. He co-founded Toronto’s widely popular Group of 7 Chefs, is a mainstay on VICELAND’s Munchies, his own notorious shows It’s Suppertime! and Dead Set on Life and just published his debut cookbook. We’re lucky to call him our old friend and teamed up for a five-city gastronomic tour at Ace Hotels in Pittsburgh, New York, Chicago, New Orleans, London and Los Angeles.

There’s a ton of cookbooks out there, why does the world need a Matty Matheson cookbook? What did you think you could provide the world with?

Matty Matheson:
Everyone needs the Matty Matheson cookbook because a) I am the best; c) this is the greatest cookbook ever written; and l) I think that Matty Matheson is an inspiration to all, including himself, me. And I think that there’s only one Matty Matheson. No one’s done it the way that I’ve done it and I’m just out here telling my story.

And that’s all that this book is, my story, so no one can tell it better than me. That’s why I think that this book is so great. It’s a beautiful cookbook. It’s a family cookbook. And the thing that it is, it is an actual cookbook. It isn’t more. It’s definitely more cookbook than story. That’s for sure.

So, is it autobiographical?

Yeah. No. It is. It’s like my grandparents. Starting as a little kid. Going to Prince Edward Island. Eating at my grandfather’s restaurant. Sleeping in like the soda pop shop banquette. You know. Eating clubhouse sandwiches. Eating clam chowder. Eating clubhouse sandwiches. Making bread with my mom. From picking blackberries in the back yard with my grandmother, to doing cocaine with chefs in Toronto, to learning how to cook French food. It’s a whole. It’s just my life, as simple as it is. There’s no blemishes. It is what it is.

It’s unfiltered.

Yeah, I think my copy editors a lot of the times — I had to fight them, like what do you mean? I reference a maple bacon Jack Daniel’s sauce that I used to put on a pork chop at this restaurant, “You could pour this on like a burning baby diaper and suck it off like a soup dumpling from a Chinatown Chinese restaurant. I don’t know. I wrote this whole thing and they’re like, “Literally, this is the weirdest thing I’ve ever read in a cookbook and this does not sound appetizing.” And I’m like, no it sounds very appetizing. When was the last time you said a sauce was so good you could put it on a diaper and suck it off? That shows how good it is. I don’t know if somebody’s written a cookbook with that type of analogy in it. I think it’s just me, but it’s still very sweet and it’s very vulnerable and it’s real.

It’s like a Matty that people haven’t seen before. I think a lot of people have seen the Matty that’s loud and crazy and all that kind of shit. But I think this is very true to me, actually. There’s no production company. This is me writing my book in my office. And I wrote half the book on my cell phone cause I don’t even own a laptop. I think that’s what makes a difference. The difference is me. There’s only one me, bro. There’s only one Matty, bro.

The biggest risk I think I’ve ever taken is believing in myself. That’s a hard thing to come to.

Is there a favorite recipe in the book or a page you particularly like? Was there a section in the book you really love?

I definitely love all of it, truly. It is my life, you know. There’s some stuff that I write that I’m really negative about. Like there’s recipes in there where I talk about how much I fucking hate — like my cheeseburger recipe from Parts & Labour, the whole thing is about how much I fucking hate it. And I’m kind of known for doing cheeseburgers. And it’s like, why the fuck am I known for cheeseburgers?! I write about that, inner monologue, and there’s that kind of honesty.

And then some of my favorite recipes, like the biggest one, the one that’s the truest, realest, no fucking around, is my grandmother’s Rappie pie, which is an Acadian dish that we make every year for Christmas Eve.

What is your first food memory?

It’s almost a forgotten dish. And very few people in the maritimes make it. But my grandmother would have it maybe three times a year. My parents would get my grandparents to ship up the block of potato mix that you need for it and it’s made in this small maritime town and you buy these potato blocks and you make, pretty much, a solidified chicken soup pie. And it’s hard to describe, but the recipe in that story is literally my biggest food tradition. Because I only have one fucking food tradition. I’m a white guy from Canada, I have no heritage besides being Canadian and eating boiled meat and boiled potatoes. So, this one dish is a true Acadian tradition that is not even looked at as a tradition in parts of the maritimes. So sharing that with the world is like the most genuine, authentic thing in the book.

It’s very similar to Anthony’s (Bourdain). It is going to the Maritimes and eating. We used to go out and dig for mussels in the Northumberland Strait. It was illegal to pull oysters out, but we would always go out. You’d feel for them with your feet.

We would look for these oysters, and we would just shuck them. My grandfather would feed us oysters right there. We would just sit there, walk around and find oysters, we’d yell to grampy, “Grampy! We found one!” He’d walk over and shuck them with his old, rusty fucking oyster knife.

Looking back on those moments…. My grampa opened up a restaurant called The Blue Goose, in PEI. Just going there early on and being in that restaurant. That was a very big thing for me, I loved it.

From filling up the little cups of coleslaw to just watching through a crack in the door, watching the kitchen work. My grandfather had an apartment attached to the restaurant and he slept there. But when we would go visit, we would literally sleep in the banquettes. We would have to wake up at 5am, because he would open at 6. He was on the highway for all the truckers to come in.

And just having hot turkey sandwiches, just having that whole diner experience and going there every summer, multiple times. Going to Prince Edward Island. My grandfather made everything from scratch. All of his pickles, all of his bread, everything.

It was an amazing thing to have as a child. I’m very grateful to have that kind of upbringing. Looking back as a chef, it’s one of those things that — it’s extremely cliché — but it’s real, and it’s my story. I don’t care if people have written about it before. It is what it is.

Is there a favorite recipe in the book or a page you particularly like? Was there a section in the book you really love?

I definitely love all of it, truly. It is my life, you know. There’s some stuff that I write that I’m really negative about. Like there’s recipes in there where I talk about how much I fucking hate — like my cheeseburger recipe from Parts & Labour, the whole thing is about how much I fucking hate it. And I’m kind of known for doing cheeseburgers. And it’s like, why the fuck am I known for cheeseburgers?! I write about that, inner monologue, and there’s that kind of honesty.

And then some of my favorite recipes, like the biggest one, the one that’s the truest, realest, no fucking around, is my grandmother’s Rappie pie, which is an Acadian dish that we make every year for Christmas Eve.

It’s almost a forgotten dish. And very few people in the maritimes make it. But my grandmother would have it maybe three times a year. My parents would get my grandparents to ship up the block of potato mix that you need for it and it’s made in this small maritime town and you buy these potato blocks and you make, pretty much, a solidified chicken soup pie. And it’s hard to describe, but the recipe in that story is literally my biggest food tradition. Because I only have one fucking food tradition. I’m a white guy from Canada, I have no heritage besides being Canadian and eating boiled meat and boiled potatoes. So, this one dish is a true Acadian tradition that is not even looked at as a tradition in parts of the maritimes. So sharing that with the world is like the most genuine, authentic thing in the book.

What’s the biggest risk you ever took?

The biggest risk I think I’ve ever taken is believing in myself. That’s a hard thing to come to.

If you weren’t a chef, Matty, what would you be?

I don’t know. I like to think that I’d love to just be a painter. I don’t even know how to paint, but now that I have a barn, all I’m thinking about is “I just want to paint bowls of oranges.” Yeah. I find that really romantic.

You know, I always picture things like traveling. I’ve never backpacked anywhere or anything like that. I’ve never done like a year where I’ve just backpacked, me and a backpack. But, I don’t think I’d like that, actually.

But I think painting, I think I’d be really great at. I don’t know!

I’m really good with kids. I really love hanging out with Mac and my kid and other kids. I actually like hanging out with other kids. A lot of people are like, “I hate other kids, I only like my kids,” kind of thing. I really like a lot of kids, so I think even like a guidance counselor?

Even though there’s the entire world is truly trying to destroy all of us and we’re trying to destroy the world, that there is that inner peace. I’m just like a glass half full type of guy. I don’t know, I guess I’d like helping the youth. Like a youth counselor, just being, doing something with kids or being a painter. I think a still life painter would be nice. Like a group of seven. Just paint like landscapes or paint fucking a bowl of pineapples or something. I don’t know.

If you had to eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would that be?

If I eat one meal? Probably Pho Ga. Something that I never get sick of and that I can eat every day. When I lived in Toronto, I ate it probably for breakfast four days a week. I never posted because I felt like a psychopath, but I eat Pho like four or five times a week.

If you could cook a meal for anybody, alive or dead, who would it be and why? And what would you cook?

John Belushi. Whole fried chicken! Let’s go! John Belushi, Blues Brothers and Matty.

Why did you decide to take your book tour to Ace Hotel?

Because everyone’s always been nice to me from Ace, they got nice rooms and nobody else asked.