Canadian chef Matty Matheson used to be the most insane party pig you’d ever met. Then, at 29, he had a heart attack and nearly died. His loved ones staged an intervention, and he decided to give up the drugs, alcohol and associated hardcore existence to focus on celebrating life. The name of his show, Dead Set On Life (Monday nights on SBS VICELAND and also on SBS On Demand), is a play on the Hüsker Dü song Dead Set on Destruction as well as a personal mantra. If you’ve never encountered a friendly, upbeat, laidback chef before, prepare yourself for Matty’s adventures in food.
SBS Food had a chat with this loud, likeable chef about his show, what's he's eating and why he's not really a celebrity chef. (Yes, there is a wee bit of swearing to follow. Matty doesn't hold back. It's who he is.)
G’day, Matty. Why should Aussies be watching Dead Set on Life?
“Hopefully Australia loves a big, tattooed guy who loves life, bouncing around Canada. Eventually the world. It’s just something that people haven’t seen before. I think it’s very different than all the other shows on Viceland. It’s a fun culinary experience. The food is a part of it, but it’s really about the people, and what people are going through. Having a good time.”
Keep reading for more "chat with Matt" or watch the start of season 1 right here, and then catch the rest on SBS On Demand
It’s amazing how much the show is defined by you as a host.
“I’ve never made television before! I never thought I’d ever be a TV chef. All of a sudden, everyone calls me a celebrity chef now, and it’s all bullshit. It’s a cool thing – I get to learn how to make television. I get to be like, ‘Okay, this doesn't work, this works. Okay, let’s do more of this.’ Maybe I yell less, maybe I yell more. People hate that I yell, or people love that I yell. People love me for me, so I just got to keep doing me, and just learn how to make better television as it goes.”
Does that mean you get to hobnob with the “other” celebrity chefs these days?
“I’m not trying to have celebrities on my show. I want it to be everyday people. Everyone on this fucking earth has an interesting story. Everyone can tell it. I meet a few people every season, and share my experience with their experience. Be vulnerable, and be funny. Be naive, or be ignorant. That’s all natural shit. That’s what people are attracted to, that it’s just the real fucking me. I don’t know how to fucking act any other way. You get what you get, you know?”
Speaking of real people, Master Rang is a highlight.
“We wanted to figure out, how do we show where I come from? I was just like, ‘Yo, I have this old cook I used to work with, who’s like this crazy Vietnamese guy who’s super-funny. And me and him get along really well, we’re friends and it’s really cool.’ And they're like, ‘Okay.’ We shot with Rang, and it’s a hit! People love Rang. We tell his story throughout the show. Rang is just kind of like my very weird sidekick. It’s a perfect thing – why am I hanging out with this 50-something-year-old Vietnamese guy? I’m a millennial, or a hipster or whatever the fuck people want to call me. Like, my team is me and some weird 50-year-old Vietnamese guy. And it’s real, so it’s cool.”
Beyond poutine and maple syrup, what does Canadian cuisine look like?
“That’s it, that’s it. You just named it. That’s for our entire country. No, I think that Canada has beautiful French culture, British culture. It has everything. It’s an amalgamation, right? You can go get Jamaican food, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, fucking Trinidadian. You can get Sri Lankan food, Ethiopian, Vietnamese. Canada, as a whole, has embraced immigrants, especially in Toronto. Quebec is French food. In the prairies it’s beef-driven, in Vancouver it’s very Asian; where Toronto, it’s everything. I’ve lived here since 2000, so this is what I know the best. Canada is known for poutine and maple syrup, and that’s cool. But our seafood is some of the best in the world. We can get moose and elk and caribou. We can have amazing pigs. Our beef is some of the best in the world.”
I saw you had a lamb leg on Instagram earlier, which looked incredible.
“I just made a bunch of Israeli food, some pita, some hummus. Made a bunch of different kinds of salads and roasted vegetables, and just ate a pita. Some pomegranate molasses braised lamb leg.”
What’s your latest food obsession? Israeli?
“I eat a lot of Vietnamese, I have a lot of pho, I eat a lot in Chinatown. Mexican is really good. My obsession right now is cooking at home – I’m cooking everything. Like, tonight I made a bunch of Israeli food. I make whatever. Sometimes I make French schnitzels at home. There’s a really amazing Polish restaurant across town that we go to a lot.”
Have you discovered anything through Dead Set on Life that’s blown your mind?
“I think it was amazing being on the bison ranch. Cooking bison on an open fire was amazing. Being with fisherman in Nova Scotia is just amazing – people that have been doing it their entire lives. Living on the boat, living on the coast. It’s just opened my eyes to my country.”
My last question for you is going to be pretty hard-hitting.
What should I have for lunch today?
“What should you have for lunch today? Go get Belle’s Hot Chicken, that’s what you should have. Best fried chicken in town. Make the trip.”