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Matty Matheson Wants to Bring Canada to You

We caught up with MUNCHIES host and Toronto chef Matty Matheson about Keep It Canada, his upcoming show for MUNCHIES, in which he goes diving for scallops and rides some bulls in the great nation that gave us Rob Ford.

Clearly, Canada is awesome—but do you know the depths of its awesomeness? Even Toronto-based chef Matty Matheson wasn't fully aware of just how bountiful, how diverse, and how delicious that great nation up north can be, which is why he decided to travel through its varied terrains and connect with some of its best food producers. Ahead of his appearance at Northside Media's Taste Talks in Chicago next weekend, we spoke to Matty about Keep It Canada, his upcoming show for MUNCHIES. We're so stoked, we're even giving away a pair of tickets to Taste Talks Chicago so you can win the chance to watch the premiere in person with Matty (all you have to do is enter below.)


MUNCHIES: How would you describe your new MUNCHIES show, Keep It Canada? Matty Matheson: Keep It Canada is about me connecting with other Canadians in Canada, going to different provinces, and hanging out with chefs, purveyors, farmers, fisherman, clam diggers. I'm just seeing the way of life of these people across Canada, taking what I've seen and been a part of, and then cooking for them as a little "thank you" dinner. In Prince Edward Island, we did a big cookout on the beach, and I used PEI beef and PEI pork, and we used the clams that we caught that day in a posole. In Newfoundland, I wanted to do something different, and so I just made a big fried chicken dinner with macaroni and cheese and all that kind of fun stuff. The show's just about connecting with people behind the culinary scene in Canada.

Can you go back to what it means to connect with other Canadians? What does it mean to be Canadian? I feel like connecting with other Canadians on an American media platform was really important because first of all, I want to showcase the amazing produce, the livestock, and the seafood we have. I want people across the world to see all the different industries that feed people in Canada.

Newfies remind me of Southern Americans. You go there and they talk so different—they sound like gypsies. It's crazy, the way that they talk! It's much like the States, where people talk a certain way in Boston, people talk differently in West Virginia, and people talk differently in Mississippi. I wanted to show Canada's version of that, and show all the different terroirs in Canada. New Brunswick is very full of forests; in Newfoundland, there's barren rocks, the ocean, and the Bay of Fundy. Quebec has millions of lakes.


Tell me about one of your favorite moments during shooting the episodes. In Calgary, we were there during the stampede and hanging out with Scott Schiffner. We went to his beef ranch—it's 100 percent grass-fed, outdoors, 365 days of the year. The next day, he went and ended up winning the stampede. He's like the best Canadian bullrider, you know? Within six seconds, he won $100,000. He was a really humble dude and he was super funny and he showed us his ranch, and he was amazing. His beef was amazing—some of the best beef in Canada, if not the best.

That sounds amazing. But what about the food? At Richard's Fresh Seafood in PEI, I had one of the best lobsters rolls I've ever had in my life. Birch Grove in St. George has the best fried clam bellies. In Calgary, I made bison shank chili that was incredible. We did a clam boil with fresh bar clams in PEI, and that was incredible. When we were in Newfoundland, we were catching brook trout right out of the river and cooking them right on the grill within five minutes. Eating diver scallops in Newfoundland was crazy: We were just shucking them open, and they're moving just like scallops move, being the muscle that they are. Seeing stuff for exactly what it is was really amazing.

I've never had scallops that fresh. I've never had a trout that we caught out of a river and then cooked, but I'm sure a million Canadians have. I was born in Saint John, New Brunswick, and I'm very much a city dude. I don't know how to fish, I've never shot a gun, I've never really done any hunting whatsoever, and so I'm very ignorant to a lot of this stuff. That's what makes it really funny. I'm a chef who uses all these parts all the time but I've never done the work behind it. I've never had to hike five miles in the forest to go fly-fishing for salmon. I just get salmon at my restaurant door and I know what to do with it. This is about building a respect level. But I'm also making fun of a lot of this stuff because I hate hiking, I'm overweight, and I hate exercising.


You're kinda like Billy Crystal from City Slickers. If you were to describe what Keep It Canada were about, what can people expect? It's about a Canadian finding real Canadian products by real Canadians. I'm pretty obviously ignorant about a lot of things, and this is about me rediscovering and reconnecting with the country I'm very much a part of, but very disconnected from. I've lived in the city pretty much my whole life, and this is me reconnecting with the country that I love, and relearning the real beauty of it.

You're headed to Taste Talks in Chicago pretty soon, right? Yes. I'll be airing the US premiere of Keep It Canada there, and I'm also gonna be cooking at the All-Star BBQ. I'm teamed up with some of my tattooer friends—Nick Colella and his wife Sarah Colella, who own Great Lakes Tattoos in Chicago. I'm gonna do a grilled goat in lettuce cups with a burnt cabbage kimchi, some cured cucumbers, some smoked habanero hot sauce, and some mint and other herbs.

Are you going to get any tattoos to add to your collection there? Hopefully! If they have time and I have time, I'd love to get a tattoo. Nick tattooed one side of my head, so he's obviously a good friend of mine. Mario Desa has done some tattoos on me as well, so hopefully I have some time with those guys. They're some of the best in the biz.

What was it like getting your head tattooed? It's pretty painful. There are some parts that don't hurt at all and there are some parts that hurt a lot. The top of the head doesn't hurt that much for me, but the sides and the back hurt really bad. The top of your forehead feels weird.

Anything else we can expect from the show? Keep It Canada is gonna be the best culinary show Canada has ever seen, and it's the best show the United States has ever seen, ever, because it's about Canada and Canada is the best. God bless Rob Ford.

Indeed, bless him. Thanks, Matty.

Want to catch Matty in person? Sign up for our newsletter below for a chance to win tickets to the All-Star Chef BBQ at Taste Talks in Chicago—featuring Paul Kahan, Amanda Cohen, Rick Bayless, and dozens of other chefs—or an all-access Kitchen Sink pass, which gets you in to every Taste Talks event throughout the weekend.