The ravages of Matty Matheson

A night out with the Vice Network star and Parts and Labour chef used to mean coke, whiskey by the pint and public nudity. Then, at age 29, he suffered a catastrophic heart attack

Matty Matheson drops F-bombs the way Jamie Oliver drops “Pukka tukka!,” the way Emeril Lagasse drops “Bam!” He averages roughly 150 expletives per episode on his new series, Dead Set on Life, the most of any show on the recently launched Viceland television network, which probably means the most of any show on any network, maybe ever. On each episode, Matheson visits a different community (bison ranchers in Alberta, French chefs in Hanoi, seal hunters in Nunavut), arriving bull-in-china-shop style to learn about their cultural and culinary traditions. It’s a cooking and travel show, but it’s really a vehicle for Matheson’s personality, which would be supersized even if he were the size of a chihuahua.

As it happens, he’s more of a St. Bernard—a massive dude of massive appetites. And he’s currently on the brink of massive success. Dead Set on Life started streaming online in Canada in February, but the wider television launch, in Canada and the U.S., happens this month. If all goes according to plan, he’ll be our country’s most successful culinary export since peameal bacon, our most adored jolly fat man since John Candy and our most charismatic charmer not named Trudeau.

In Toronto he’s already achieved a certain level of celebrity. Pretty much anytime he leaves his Parkdale house, he’ll hear “Hey, Matty!” and he’ll try to figure out whether the person is a friend or just someone who recognizes him. There is that type of famous person you see and you think, Where do I know that guy from, again? Matheson is the exact opposite of that guy—the size, the volume, the tattoo count that is excessive even by hipster chef standards.

Parts and Labour, the site of the subterranean Matty Fest bashes. Photo by Lorne Bridgman
Dog and Bear pub on Queen West. Photo by Daniel Neuhaus
Maybe you know Matheson from his restaurants. He’s been the executive chef at Parts and Labour since the west-side resto–rock bar opened in 2010, and he consults on menus and marketing strategy at the Dog and Bear pub and Maker Pizza. Lately, though, it’s just as likely you’ve noticed him building his brand away from the kitchen. He interviewed Stephen Harper during a campaign stop in Whitby last fall—the only accredited press member with body ink spilling out from his collar and sleeves. Or perhaps you caught his modelling debut for Holt Renfrew in their fall 2015 campaign.