The Only Real Chef on ‘The Bear’ Refused to Play One

Matty Matheson only agreed to play Fak on ‘The Bear’ when he found out Fak wasn’t a cook
The Only Real Chef on ‘The Bear’ Refused to Play One

When Christopher Storer asked Matty Matheson if he’d play a part on The Bear, Matheson had one condition: “No chef.”

In a post-Anthony Bourdain media landscape, there is a hunger for gritty, edgy, stylish and smart content about cooking and those who are best at it. Storer’s painstakingly authentic restaurant dramedy series The Bear, which he created on the consultation of his professional chef sister Courtney, scratches an itch that many current-and-former food workers have had for a realistic depiction of the restaurant industry and its many outrageous stressors. Conversely, it also provides a sort of wish-fulfillment, voyeuristic look inside the kitchen for those who never worked food service jobs, but who have a romantic view on the industry as a whole – usually inspired by Bourdain or his many contemporaries.

Well, the celebrity chef and restaurateur Matheson lived Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential lifestyle, and, when Storer asked him to act in The Bear, he only agreed to play the part when he found out that it was one of the few roles that wasn’t a cook. And, no, Matheson’s reasoning behind the refusal to play a chef wasn’t just that TV chefs are as shafted on payday as their real-life counterparts.

“I didn’t want to,” Matheson responded when Jimmy Kimmel pointed out the irony that the only actual chef on The Bear doesn’t play a chef. Matheson further detailed how his involvement with the series didn’t start with an onscreen role, as the Storers initially recruited him to help create the true-to-life kitchen atmosphere of the show. “Chris asked me to be a part of it, he was like, ‘Hey, we want you to, like, come and consult and help out?’” Matheson explained, “I was like, ‘Yeah!’ And he was like, ‘Would you want to act?’ and I was like, ‘I don’t know.’”

Though Matheson has plenty of on-camera experience on Vice’s many cooking and food shows, such as MunchiesIt's Suppertime! and Dead Set on Life, he wasn’t an experienced actor, and the possibility of performing his day job in character seemed too taxing. “I was just like, ‘I really wouldn’t want to be a chef if you’re gonna ask me that, like, that sucks.’ ‘Cuz I don’t want to do that, that’s stressful.”

Thankfully, Matheson’s role on the show, the feckless repairman Neil Fak, is about as far from a cook as any character in the series. “(Storer’s) like, ‘We want you to be the handyman guy,’ and I was like, ‘Perfect, I don’t know how to do anything!’” Matheson says that he enjoys being far out of his wheelhouse, and, while he’s advising his co-stars on how to believably cook food on camera, he’s getting notes on how to operate a screwdriver from his own sources.

“My wife Trisha is really good, she fixes the lights, puts salt down on the driveway when it’s snowing, she’s out there fixing stuff in the barn,” Matheson said of his handyman consultant. Matheson described one such acting lesson he received, saying, “I’m just like, ‘Trish, what am I supposed to do? Like, the oven’s broken,’ and she’s like, ‘You fix it, you idiot!’”


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