It’s a big day for Matty Matheson. When Broadsheet catches up with the chef, actor and producer on Zoom, (pre-SAG-AFTRA strike), he’s just learnt The Bear, for which he is an executive producer, has been nominated for 13 Emmys, including Outstanding Comedy Series, for its first season. At the same time, the buzz around the show’s recently released second season is still at fever pitch.
When asked how he’s processing the news, Matheson’s reaction is the opposite of what you’d get from Neil Fak, the highly excitable fix-it guy he portrays on The Bear.
“You know, tanning’s pretty nice,” he says from his office in Toronto. “I’ve been trying to sit out in the sun and absorb some rays. Just trying to get the body to a little deep caramel.”
The Bear, a sharply drawn emotional rollercoaster of a show about a fine-dining chef trying to turn his family’s old-school sandwich shop around, premiered on Disney Plus in 2022 and became one of the biggest hits of the year.
It made “Yes, chef” the year’s hottest phrase and turned leads Jeremy Allen White and Ayo Edebiri into critically acclaimed stars. For Matheson, a rambunctious Canadian-born chef with a bunch of restaurants, cookbooks and Youtube series to his name, the show provided his first real acting role as well as the chance to serve as an executive producer.
Matheson describes The Bear’s second season, which starts streaming on Disney Plus in New Zealand and Australia today, as “full-bodied.”
Season one sees Carmine “Carmy” Berzatto (White), an award-winning chef recovering from the trauma of working in the cutthroat world of fine dining, move home to Chicago to help get his family’s sandwich shop, The Beef, back on its feet after a death in the family. In season two Carmy and his team are working to transform the shop into a Michelin-star-worthy fine diner.
The show has resonated with everyone from hospitality lifers to people who have never worked in the industry. In addition to its hospitality bona fides the key to The Bear’s success and impact is the way it depicts the unrelenting pressures of working in hospo and its back-of-house chaos, while remaining hopeful, optimistic and full of heart.
Fans of season one will be familiar with certain anxiety-inducing elements of the show that reappear in season two. “We know which [figurative] songs to play,” says Matheson. For Carmy, anxiety comes in the form of waiting for kitchen permits and shaving seconds off the prep time for certain menu items. In this season more time is also spent unpacking the supporting characters around Carmy.
“Everyone deserves to be explained a little bit,” Matheson says. “Who are these people? Where are they coming from? What are they dealing with?”
Mild spoiler alerts ahead, but episodes like Honeydew see chef and cake maestro Marcus (Lionel Boyce) travel to Copenhagen; Sundae follows sous-chef Sydney (Edebiri) as she seeks inspiration in Chicago’s culinary scene; and Forks trails restaurant manager and Carmy’s “cousin” Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach).
“They’re all in such different stages of their career,” Matheson says of the ensemble. Matheson’s character Neil doesn’t get a dedicated episode, but he’s involved in some memorable scenes of the season.
More mild spoilers ahead, but in Fishes, a flashback episode that’s shot in the style of an indie film and has a 66-minute runtime, Matheson shares scenes with guest stars Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Gillian Jacobs, John Mulaney, Jon Bernthal and Academy Award winner – in his words – “Jamie Lee fucking Curtis”. Intimidating co-workers, even for trained actors. But Matheson can hang with the best of them.
“I met Sarah Paulson and five minutes later we’re upstairs [shooting a scene together],” he says of the acclaimed actor, known for her roles in American Horror Story, Carol and other Hollywood productions. "We’re all in the bathroom with Sarah Paulson and she’s just in the zone. She’s playing with the character … I’m still just like sitting there watching to be honest [thinking] like, ‘Damn.‘”
Ontario-based Matheson, a father of three, co-runs Blue Goose Farm), has cookware and clothing lines, owns six restaurants (including burger spot Matty’s Patty’s and upmarket restaurant Prime Seafood Palace, both in Toronto); and still regularly makes videos for his Youtube channel (which, at the time of publication, has 1.21 million subscribers).
On set, in his role as executive producer, Matheson collaborates with culinary producer Courtney “Coco” Storer on ensuring the show’s depiction of the food world is accurate. Storer’s worked in buzzy kitchens including Verjus in Paris and Jon and Vinny’s in Los Angeles, where she was culinary director, and her brother is series creator Christopher Storer.
“I turn more into a sous-chef on set,” Matheson says. “It’s really nice [to] get into a thing where I’m not the overseeing person or this huge visionary. I’m there to help other people create their vision.”
Matheson is also working on his third cookbook, the follow up to his 2020 bestseller Home Style Cookery.