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Matty Matheson Talks Vice, P&L Burger, Future Plans

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Three months after its crowning, Matty Matheson's reality show winning burger gets its own home on Queen Street West. In addition to serving as executive chef for The Social Group (Parts and Labour, Dog and Bear, The Hoxton), Matty also has a hit series on Vice, and is a founder of both the Group of Seven Chefs and The Northern Alliance. Eater sat down with the heavily tatted and highly talented chef at the new P&L Burger to talk burgers, online chef romances, and more.

What's the first dish you remember cooking? As a kid I remember barbecuing oysters at my grandfathers house. It's the first imprint I have of cooking real food. He had a restaurant in Crapaud P.E.I. and I would go there every summer and we would have big lobster boils and go clam digging.

You have a cooking series on Vice, how did you get involved with that? I've always been friends with a bunch of dudes at Vice, I'd constantly pitch them to be a part of the Munchies series, but they said they had something planned for me. Then one day one of the producers Patrick McGuire asked if I wanted my own show and I was like "@#$% yeah!" It was really fun and the idea was really cool. I get drunk with other chefs and we cook the best hangover meals.

How do you get all the various chefs on-board, are any hesitant to take part? They are all friends of mine. It usually starts off as weird Internet romances. You get connected with chefs from not just Toronto but New York, Chicago, LA, San Francisco and you get to see other people's ideals, similar interests and you end up becoming friends online and then decide let's do this. I'm friends with some great chefs but once you get them drunk they do stupid things and it's hilarious. I look like an idiot, but when I'm wasted on the show that's exactly who I am sober too.

So you're the reigning champ in the burger world, was Parts and Labour turning into a burger shop? One hundred percent. Burger Wars aired in August and instantly we became the burger place. We served one single burger and that wasn't what we wanted Parts and Labour to be known for. People were driving in from all over and some wouldn't check our hours of operation and then they were disappointed when we were closed. It quickly came to light that we needed to open a separate place. Our friend (David) was closing down White Squirrel and the space was perfect so we teamed up and The P&L Burger was born.

How will you split your time between your growing number of kitchens?
Luckily the service hours are all spread out and I've got a great team.

So we wont find you here flipping burgers often?
I'll be here every day for the next two months. Making sure everything's good.

What does your typical day look like? My workday runs from 8 am to midnight. Wake up, shower, leave the house, head to The P&L Burger until 4, go have coffee chill out for an hour. Then head to Parts and Labour or Dog and Bear until service is done, see my girlfriend and then go bed. And the cycle repeats.

What does it take to work in your kitchen? Each restaurant is very different. P&L is obviously going to be a very easy service. I have different skill set requirements everywhere. I have guys who want to be chefs, guys who cook and then the young guys who just work.

So you had this home-run burger at Parts and Labour, how did you design the rest of the menu around that? The rest of the menu was really easy. I basically thought of all the different cuisines and the ingredients they are known and loved for. Its really simple things, it makes the burger work. It should always be about the patty and the bun. There's something for everyone and room for the menu to grow. When I originally wrote the menu, I had about 20 burgers but its better to start small and grow.

Will the menu change often? I don't plan on changing the menu, I will add to it, lots of specials. I already want to add a jerk burger.

Tell me a little bit about the Group of Seven Chefs? It kind of turned into the group of four; we have different chefs join the team occasionally. It's just a fun night where a bunch of different chefs come together and cook a great meal together. The very first dinner we did was with eight meat-centric chefs and the challenge was to cook a completely vegetarian dinner. It snowballed from there. Now three years later we have this core group of chefs. We just cook together and do fun parties. It's open to the public online so you can buy tickets and join the party.

What's your dream restaurant to open up in the future? A classic French bistro. Completely Parisian.

Where is your favorite place to dine in the city? Santouka Ramen is sick. I eat at King Noodle more than any other place in the city. I love to go into Bar Isabel and sit at the bar, great place. Luckily I get to skip the line-ups these days! Morton's Steakhouse is always good. I've lived in Parkdale for 10 years, that's my hood. I tend to eat in the area. Porzia makes unreal lasagna every Sunday. Then there's Chantecler, Local Kitchen Wine Bar, Grand Electric. I'm a fan of all these places.
[Photo:Katherine Holland

P&L Burger

507 Queen St. W., Toronto, ON