Matty Matheson might be the antithesis of the conventional 'TV chef'.
The high energy, Mormon-raised, Ontario-based chef, might even be the polar opposite to what you'd expect from a let-me-show-you-what-I-prepared-earlier breed of television cooking stars.
A few minutes into our rendezvous in the sunny Coromandel, after an early start fishing just outside of Thames, it becomes clear that Viceland's newest culinary star is fiercely passionate about food and entranced by traditional Kiwi methods.
When did you first discover that food would be a part of your life in such a significant way?
"My grandfather had a restaurant called Blue Goose in Prince Edward Island. Going over there as a young kid was a big part of it. Just being around restaurants, it was cool. My grandfather's was like an old-style diner, with around 100 seats. There was an old soda pop shop, a little bar - we used to see glimpses of it. We were never allowed in the kitchen, but we would just stand there and look through the door. Living down by the water and eating fresh seafood... "
How do you rate New Zealand seafood? It's something Kiwis are pretty proud of...
"We went to Aunty's Garden, in Napier, by Hastings, it's a cool community. There was an amazing community garden, they had great produce and herbs - it was cool to see how it worked and the system of koha, where you pay what you think. You don't get charged, it was cool to participate in that, experience the Māori culture.
"This morning, we went out to a mussel barge, it's just an epic bounty of seafood. We're out there pulling up mussels, surrounded by fishing boats. There were oysters, fish... it was cool to see the fish feeding off the shells. New Zealand is special."
How important do you think it is to keep living off the land, particularly for indigenous people? It's easy to lose sight of that.
"I think there's a lot to learn, off the Māori people. I think almost everyone in New Zealand fishes, you know, every place that we go they say 'take what you need' and I think that's a healthy mantra. A lot of people will take so much or keep going back and taking more, and I feel that's a really cool thing that I've leanred since being here. Participating in a hāngi, that was cool."
What was your first impression of hāngi? It's pretty different from the techniques you have in Canada.
"I wasn't really sure what to expect, honestly, it's really different. But the food was really good – the kumara, the pumpkin, the chicken, the pork – it was all so smoky. We did a really big one, there was about 10 chickens, a whole leg of lamb... it was really welcoming. That was my first experience in New Zealand. The people really took us in and the food was delicious."
New Zealand is a really young country, in many ways, we're still discovering our food identity. When you look at Canada, how would you typify the Canadian food identity?
"I think that most parts of the world, we've got a west coast and an east coast coming from the Pacific – prawns, crab, oysters – amazing seafood. On the Atlantic, you're getting amazing Nova Scotia lobster, black mussels... you're getting really epic seafood, from both coasts, then throughout the mainland, Quebec has such a strong identity and the Praries, their food is French.
"It's really strong, throughout the area, the beef, the baison... then in Ontario, the produce is incredible. Canada is a well-rounded country, it's so multi-cultural, it's really great to be able to head to a city like Toronto and to eat whatever you want. I can eat Trinidadian food, I can eat Thai, I can eat Ethiopian food, Sri Lankan... but hāngi has not broken the Toronto scene yet – it's got room for that, for sure."
How important do you think it is for chefs to break out of the kitchen and get into the world, explore different food identities through travel and experience?
"I think in the last two years, when I started travelling a lot, it really has opened my eyes. I'm humbled by what I get to do, I'm privillaged by the travelling I get to do, the restaurants I get to eat at... the different cultures and traditions. The everyday chef, he might get about two weeks off during the year where he gets to bounce around like that. I travel almost six months of the year now, so it's really I think it's really important for chefs to travel. I wish I travelled more when I was a young chef, I never went to Europe – I just cooked and worked in kitchens.
"I think young chefs need to travel, otherwise you get stuck in that little world. Sure, you can see everything on your smart phone, on Instagram and everything else, but I think it's important for chefs to go out and see stuff, to get that taste, to really understand what food tastes like. I always think about that scene in Good Will Hunting, when Robin Williams' character rips into Matt Damon, he asks him, 'do you know what the Sistine Chapel smells like? Have you stood beneath a Michelangelo painting? I may be a humbled man, but I've travelled – you've only read books.'"
Matty Matheson's Dead Set On Life airs Saturdays on Viceland. To see Matty in New Zealand, tune in on Saturday July 1 at 8.30pm.