The Canadian chef’s new cooking show, Just a Dash, is set to debut on Youtube on Oct. 2. Matheson, who is the star of Vice shows It’s Suppertime! and Dead Set on Life, has decided to embark on his new venture independently to give his fans “the realest version” of himself and his food. Modern Farmer recently talked to Matheson about the show, his forthcoming cookbook and a restaurant he plans to open in Toronto next year.
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Modern Farmer: Tell us about your new show. What’s different about your approach to Just a Dash compared to your Vice ones?
Matty Matheson: I made it. The biggest thing is that I made it myself and I think it’s the realest, funniest cooking show that’s ever been made. I know I sound pretentious saying that, but I think through laughter and cooking, this is a really kind of amazing thing. It’s just a show about food. There are mistakes. There are hiccups. There’s beautiful food. There’s thoughtful food. There’s everything. Everything that I’ve been making in the last five years has come to this point where I’m very comfortable with who I am on camera and I’m making food that I really want to make because it’s my show. So I’m making stuff I genuinely want to make. There’s no clickbait or analytics of what the world wants to see. I’m making dishes that I love cooking. It’s my mind. This whole show is the realest version of me you’re ever going to get.
MF: Do you feel like you were on a leash with your Vice shows?
MM: I don’t think I was on a leash. I think there are a lot of opinions. That’s all. If you’ve seen my shows, you see the way I talk and interact with people. Vice has always given me the freedom to do whatever I want. But at the end of the day, maybe I’d edit something a little bit differently or maybe I’d leave more in. I could take it in any direction I want and I have absolute freedom. I don’t have to deal with producers or executives, a board. I’m making it myself and I’m putting it up on Youtube. For people who already identify with the style of content I make, this is going to be a really triumphant moment for all of us.
MF: What was the genesis of this show? Is it something you’ve been thinking about for a while?
MM: When Vice and I parted ways, I decided I could do it myself because I could. I was like I can just make this myself and not worry about going to networks, and working with production companies. It just kind of clicked that I could do it myself. I had enough money to do it and so I was like I’m going to invest in myself and get my friends to shoot it, edit it and that was it really. When I left Vice, it was really just an interesting time. Very quickly, I kind of realized I don’t want to work with other people because I know what I like to do and what makes me happy—cooking and showing people how to cook. If I make these videos and people are cooking and creating food for other people, that’s a really nice effect.
MF: Most of our audience care a lot about where their food comes from. So what’s important for you when you think about food and where it comes from?
MM: Well, I think it starts and ends with farmers. I always try to reiterate that you should definitely be shopping at farmers’ markets. You should definitely be buying meat and fish from fishmongers and real butcher shops. I’m always like “go to farmers’ markets” and people say “but it’s always more expensive.” Good food shouldn’t be cheap. Why is that a notion in peoples’ minds that food should be cheap? You should be able to know how to cook and take a bone from an animal and make a stock. And from that bone and water, you will be able to make something that is bountiful. People just have it completely twisted. We’re just in a kind of weird, sad place. Try to go to a farmers’ market once a month. It doesn’t have to be an end-all-be-all thing. I think contributing as little as you can is great. If you’re buying some beautiful arctic char from a fishmonger, buy two fillets. You don’t have to buy hundreds of dollars worth of fish from the place. Just go buy a fillet. Go buy one scallop. I don’t think people need to buy everything [from farmers’ markets]. If you can financially, and you chose to spend your money that way, then that’s amazing. But I think that if the everyday person were to be a little bit more awake with their money and go and try it out, eventually, maybe they’ll enjoy that their carrots taste like carrots, their beef tastes like something they’ve never had before and their chicken doesn’t taste like bleached water. If people just dip their toe in, they’re going to see that the water’s pretty nice with buying real vegetables, real meat and real fish. MF: At your own restaurants in Toronto, have you had close relationships with local farmers or urban farmers?
MM: I’ve been out of the restaurant game for almost five years, really, but when we did [have a restaurant], there were a lot of amazing relationships. There is amazing produce out there. I’m very much disconnected in that kind of scope, but I’ll be opening a restaurant in the early new year and I’m really looking forward to reconnecting my life through my business to farmers, fisher folk and ranchers. As of right now, my relationship through farmers is through Instagram. I’ve always stayed in touch.
With my new restaurant, I’m very excited because I’m not compromising on ingredients. When I’ve been asked about my restaurant, people ask what it’s going to be and I’m like it’s going to be very expensive. And not because it’s fancy, but because I won’t be compromising in buying shitty onions or shitty mint. I’m very excited to work very deeply with farmers, ranchers and fisher folk. That’s the thing I’m actually most stoked about. I get to really try to make my restaurant the best through using the best ingredients, which come from farmers. MF: I hear you’ve got a new cookbook coming out, too. In your last one, you talked a lot about memories of food that made you who you are. That seemed like a very personal book. What do you hope to do with the new one?
MM: The new book is straight up home cooking. We start off making basic breads, making basic stocks, pickles, vegetable dishes. There are a lot of vegetables in this book. I think there are 45 vegetable recipes in the book out of almost 150 recipes. My [old] book was me sharing my life through a culinary lense. Those dishes were very specific and real to my life. So the new book is very much my little version of a beginner’s manual to cooking at home. With my fan base, this is a starting point of home cooking. I find people know how to buy a chicken, but they don’t know what to do with the chicken once they get it. There’s a really nice thing about doing things properly and not getting too fussy. I’m just trying to fill peoples’ heads with ideas of what they can do with that chicken stock. You can take it a million ways. People just don’t have the ideas.
MF: You’ve garnered a pretty big following on Instagram. What made you take your first toilet selfie? (You read that right. Look it up.)
MM: I don’t know. It’s just my brain. It’s who I am. Nothing’s contrived. It is what it is. I’m kind of a goof. I’ve always kind of been that guy. It was kind of a mirror of society. Everyone is out there trying to look their best, taking these 500 selfies to get the perfect angle. I’m just like here I am sitting on the toilet in the morning. Why don’t we just strap in and soak this up. It turned into a little bit of a thing. Now I announce tours across America sitting on a toilet. You can make anything a thing.
MF: You seem like a very open person; you’re unafraid to say what you think and talk about your struggles. Why is it important for people to see who you are, bruises and all?
MM: Well, because that’s the stuff. Everyone is broken. So why not share that? I love sharing my failures in my life and my tumbles. I guess I’ve never hurt anybody or was never a predator psychopath. I have nothing to hide. I’ll air my own laundry. I have no problem talking about doing a lot of drugs, drinking a lot of alcohol and acting a fool. Why not? This is who I am. I like talking about it and people like asking about it, so sure. It’s almost boring to just talk about the wins.
MF: And where do you come down on the old “is a hot dog a sandwich” debate?
MM: A hot dog is not a sandwich because it’s a hot dog. A hot dog is a stand-alone, my friend. A hot dog is a hot dog. Give it the respect. Is a hamburger a sandwich? A BLT is a sandwich. A pita is a pita. A hot dog is a hot dog. A hot dog is not a sandwich. A sandwich is a club sandwich.