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The chef Matty Matheson, who plays a handyman on 'The Bear,' at home in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada, Aug. 24, 2022.Brandon Watson/The New York Times News Service

If you’re not watching The Bear, you should be. The series follows a top chef who takes over at his late brother’s failing restaurant in Chicago. And one of the show’s breakout stars isn’t even a professional actor—it’s 40-year-old Canadian celebrity chef Matty Matheson, who rose to foodie fame as the executive chef at Toronto’s Parts & Labour. His empire now includes restaurants, cookbooks, a YouTube channel, cooking tools and a line of workwear.

Defy expectations

Matheson became a top chef because he was good at it. He became a celebrity chef because he didn’t fit the mould. He’s from New Brunswick. He’s covered in tattoos. He used to work as a death-metal roadie. And he partied hard, which, to be fair, is what most people expect from chefs—except that Matheson gave up both booze and drugs after having a heart attack at age 29. Even his first acting gig was against type: Instead of playing a cook on a show about cooks, he plays the handyman, Neil Fak.

Independence means resilience

After P&L shut down in 2019, Matheson lined up a lot of work for 2020—but COVID-19 had other ideas. After seeing so much income wiped out by the pandemic, he decided working for others was “only playing 50% of the game,” as he put it to The New York Times. Instead, he started focusing on his own projects that no one else could take away.

Keep your friends close

Documentary director Christopher Storer had been a pal of Matheson’s for years before Storer sold his pilot script for The Bear. He brought Matheson on board as a producer to help teach the actors how to behave like a realistic kitchen crew. Successful people often hire people they knew before they were successful.

Leverage your success (and your expertise)

Matheson might not be a fashion maven, but he does know what cooks need from their workwear (hint: durability). So he and a partner launched Rosa Rugosa, whose made-in-Canada products are aimed not just at food workers, but also nurses, farmers and anyone else who has to spend a lot of money on jackets and caps.

Brace for anxiety

Matheson has said The Bear’s portrayal of kitchen life is so realistically intense that working on it spurred recurring dreams in which he’d find himself facing endless orders and discovering all the food was rotten. The lesson here? The pressure of doing good work doesn’t stop when the work is done. You wanna be a mogul? Deal with it.

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