Find your freedom machine
Matty Matheson on personal sauce development, putting guardrails on creativity, communing blissfully with O.G. Hell's Angels energies & more
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Matty Matheson — he’s a kindvibed Canadian fireball of UNRULY CHARISMA; a dope-food-and-travel-TV host several times over; and the “kitchen mastermind” behind mad popping restaurants. Also on some triumph of the human spirit s**t he partied so fatalistically hard in his youth that he got LAID ON HIS A** by a heart attack at age 29 — thankfully he bounced back, with time and help from ppl who love him, and came out of the experience with a powerful combination of humility and wisdom beyond his years !!
The next time I’m in Toronto (the city that Matty has long called home, and one we have long loved) I’m going to eat as many meals as possible at Matty’s newest restaurant, Prime Seafood Palace, where the ambiance is so long on “luminous sculptural blond wood” that, gazing upon the pictures, you might think you were beholding the cafe from DENMARK’S LOUISIANA MUSEUM or something… and the food sounds insane 2 boot. Abbondanza!
If all that wasn’t enough, Matty’s taste in CLOTHES is inspired — he executes wild visions with boisterous wit and scuzzy panache — so you know we had to get on an encrypted SpyVideo line with him the other day and chop it up about cheffing it up gourmandishly with GUARDRAILS; rocking fly fits as a “big f**king round ball”; and finding a hobby that makes him feel FREE (so free it trapped him and replaced jawnz copping in his “addict brain” ??)…
Blackbird Spyplane: The photos of yr new restaurant are beautiful. It looks like it could be attached to a design museum, baby…
Matty Matheson: “From the moment you walk in, you catch a vibe. There’s nods to Canadian architecture, and Japanese and Danish architecture, too. It’s this wood-and-brass room with odes to my grandfather’s diner on Prince Edward Island, with the canopy and the swivel stools, and some people have told me it reminds them of, like, a lobster trap from the Maritimes. I see it as a rising and a setting sun: The restaurant glows. A traditional steakhouse is warm — burgundy-dark leather, like a cigar feel. Very masculine. I wanted to kind of ‘de-masculate’ the steakhouse, so we have light leather, light wood, and at midnight it’s still glowing, like it's the magic hour.”
Blackbird Spyplane: What does the space say about the food yr cooking?
Matty Matheson: “There’s no artwork, nothing for us to hide behind — the space is the space. And I was like, ‘What does this space deserve,’ and I set up these guardrails. Take our cocktails: there’s zero garnish, zero peel. There’s an olive in the dirty martini but I don’t want anything that doesn’t truly add.
“With the food, there’s no real ‘composed dishes.’ It’s just items on plates and you can kind of curate them. If you get the the steak, it’s the steak: We do a lot to make it great — our Côte de Boeuf, we confit it in rendered beef fat and tallow and smoke it on top of the embers for a couple hours, then char it, then put it into this jus bath with herbs and garlic— but you don’t need to see all that.
“Another big guardrail is I wanna buy from a bunch of different farmers, fisher-folk, ranchers. A restaurant’s goal usually is to get everything from one place, because that’s good for your bottom line. But it’s not good for anything else. So that’s a constant battle, and it can mean not having green garlic or iceberg lettuce when they’re not in season, but we’re digging in our heels.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Beyond the nods to your grandfather’s diner, are there other autobiographical, Canadian touches to the place?
Matty Matheson: “For our bread service we’re doing molasses bread, which is something I grew up eating. Little rolls. And we’re doing a nice kind of kippered mussels and mustard pickles. When I was a kid, every meal, you had a can or jar of smoked mussels, mustard pickles or pickled beets and molasses bread.”
Blackbird Spyplane: It’s clear in every pic you’ve taken, except for when yr naked on the toilet taking selfies, that you get a kick out of clothes, AND you figure out how to pull off garments and combos that could easily go extremely wrong. You don’t just wear Carhartt, you wear Carhartt overalls, or you’ll rock Chanel sunglasses with a thrashed Biohazard tee, or like a leopard-print kimono fleece over yr bare chest with some double-knee jeans and a balaclava …?? The effect is advanced “dirtbag flamboyance” … When did you feel like you locked in yr own sense of style?
Matty Matheson: “I don’t know — I had some scary moments trying to find mine, but part of it definitely comes out of the hardcore punk scene I grew up in, part of it comes from ‘90s Deadheads, where it was about wearing piece-of-shit rugby shorts with some weird fleece: that showed me that, even if it’s a juxtaposition, good pieces go together.
“I’m also a big f**king round ball, so there’s a huge amount of big dudes and larger people who contact me to say, How do you do it? And I say, Just wear stuff that fits! The pants I'm wearing now are, like, 52 x 27s, ‘cause I like to wear them up around my belly. I don’t give a f**k!”
Blackbird Spyplane: It’s like what you’re supposed to do when yr car starts hydroplaning — you’re “steering into the curves,” rather than away from them ; )
Matty Matheson: “I also just wear the same thing every day. I collect t-shirts, but I basically wear this Prince shirt daily because somehow I managed to find the largest Prince shirt in existence, and I love it. Sometimes I wear it inside out.
“But I’ve been whittling away at my clothes — and I don’t wear new stuff anymore. Everything’s vintage. When I first started making a little bit of money, I’d go into Gucci and buy Gucci. And people started sending me stuff from all these brands, even brands from my friends that I was so thankful for and wanted to wear on Vice to put my homies on. But all of a sudden you look down and you’re a walking billboard. It isn’t you anymore. Eventually I said, F**k that. Before fame I wore the same Black Flag shirt for 3 years straight. I had one pair of Vans I wore till my toes were coming out. Like, remember the early 2000s, where everyone had a leather jacket and thought they were cool, wearing black, doing little bumpskis and listening to A.R.E. Weapons?”
Blackbird Spyplane: Wow, A.R.E. Weapons, ahaaaa !!! Man, I think I still have their demo on a burned CD. Homie who played bass bartended at Sweet & Vicious … and maybe dated Chloë Sevigny?? What a time. I gotta go listen to “Street Gang” and see how it holds up.
Matty Matheson: “Back then I’d be wearing some ripped-up punk tee and a leather jacket with a bunch of things on it — and now I’ve gone back to that. Spending on designer clothes is ridiculous to me. These days, every dollar I spend is on motorcycles. I’m in this vortex — all the parts I buy are from the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s. I just bought a motor and an oil bag from 1938. That’s where my addict brain is at, to the point I don’t think about clothes anymore. I’ve got enough clothes.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Addicts might have an extreme version of what a lot of us have, which is this wiring / neurochemistry where it’s hard to ever feel like you’ve got “enough” of something UNTIL you just replace that desire with the desire to accumulate / ingest another thing. The urge doesn’t die, it just changes its object. What was it that you love about bike s**t from those decades?
Matty Matheson: “That’s just choppers — that’s how they started, with someone from the ‘60s taking a bike from the ‘50s and chopping it, making it them. It’s a way to show who you are, what your style is. You can do a million things — the way you mount your carburetor, the way you put your air filter on, the pedals. Every single bolt! You can find bolts from the ‘40s, they’re all out there. So it gives me a never-ending through line of things to chase now.”
“My first chopper, the blue one, is Tropical Beef. That’s a 1951 EL motor HD panhead. I wanted, like, an early ‘60s, Southern California, San Bernardino, original Hell’s Angels style motorcycle, so that’s got a British-style Wassell gas tank, Wassell rear fender, 18-inch, 19-inch rear wheel, 21-inch front wheel, it’s got a 2” over, 1943 OEM Springer front end — then the style of the paint is very early ‘60s. It was about this bad boy Hell’s Angels early beginnings thing, where the appeal is the same as the beginning of anything — like, imagine what it was like to be at the first rave. Those moments are so pure, so important.
“Then for Beach Pig, the idea was for it to be the younger, meaner, tougher f**king panhead, and I wanted something made by my friends in one day. It was so cool to take these parts from 60 years ago, put them onto a machine, kick it over and rip down the PCH the same day.
“In the mid-‘60s it was about making kind of tougher bikes, so that bike has a 10” over front end, which gives it that aggressive stance — with the stance of a motorcycle, it’s undeniable as to whether you got style or not. There’s nowhere to hide on motorcycles. Either you’re a fucking kook or not. You know? Everything comes down to everything: The way it’s painted, the way you mount everything — everyone’s looking at you and judging, these cool dudes saying, ‘I don’t know…’”
Blackbird Spyplane: What’s the fundamental appeal of riding for you? Does it come down to adrenaline ?
Matty Matheson: “I have this weird meaning in my life now — I never had a hobby, never played sports. Work is work, I love the work, and there’s family, but I needed that third thing, and I found it in motorcycles. Someone whose entire life is online, and whose whole persona is about people-pleasing — to be able to go out on a motorcycle, turn your phone off or not even bring it? It’s not therapy, it’s not a chiropractor, it’s a place for me. It’s just me.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Feeling that WIND WHIP against yr goggles as you fly thru the world at high speed, paying attention to zero dumb s**t…
Matty Matheson: “Smelling that grass, baby. All the clichés are real. It’s a little freedom machine.”
Matty’s on IG here, and he’s on YouTube here. His newest restaurant, Toronto’s Prime Seafood Palace, is online here.