Things have been heating up in the kitchen for Laurier alumna Mary Berg (BA ’11). Since winning the third season of CTV’s MasterChef Canada in 2016, Berg has become a fan favourite for her regular cooking demonstrations on CTV’s Your Morning and The Marilyn Denis Show, developed a cookbook due for release in September and become the star of her own CTV cooking show, Mary's Kitchen Crush. Laurier Campus magazine caught up with Berg to discuss cooking for Canadians from coast to coast on television and the philosophy behind her show. She also shares an original recipe especially for the Laurier community.
Tell us about your show, Mary’s Kitchen Crush.
The show has been an absolute dream to work on and I am so incredibly proud of what the entire production team has created. Mary’s Kitchen Crush is just me in the kitchen cooking simple and delicious food for the people in my life who matter most. As the opening of the show says, “it’s all about food, friends and family!” This is something that has always held true to me – from being a young kid whipping up a weird amount of crepes in my family kitchen to cooking pies, pasta and pastries for my roommates and coworkers while at Laurier. I have always loved creating and sharing food with those around me. Getting to do that every day for work now is just simply wonderful.
What is it like to have your own TV show?
Oh, my gosh, it’s pretty much the most bonkers bananas thing I could ever imagine! It’s surreal but I absolutely love the whole process, from pre-production to post-production, and am so happy that I get to be a part of every second of it. I have always really loved the recipe development process, so getting the opportunity to do that as the cornerstone of everything I do in my day-to-day work life really has been a dream come true.
What’s the biggest challenge of having your own show?
I think the biggest challenge of the show is feeling like the world’s worst standup comedian while filming. In the kitchen, all of the microphones are on in order to catch my voice as well as all of the bubbling, spattering, mixing and chopping sounds that happen when cooking – so everyone on set has to be incredibly quiet the whole time. Essentially, I am talking to the camera and the left side of my camera operator’s face but, even when I tell a joke, a funny story, or just do something that might be laughable, no one is allowed to laugh or react. At first it was very awkward, but then I made a little game out of it. If I could get someone to break, I was nailing it!
– Mary Berg
A big part of the philosophy behind your cooking is to serve as an inspiration for people to cook nourishing, comforting home-cooked meals. What do you think people get out of learning how to cook?
First, thank you so much. This is my whole goal. While I myself might like spending an entire Sunday making complicated recipes, I know that the majority of viewers and readers find that daunting.
I just get such incredible joy out of cooking and creating for the people in my life that I want other people to feel the same way. You don’t have to be a wizard or a master chef in order to create something delicious for yourself or your family. You just need to cook. In my mind, there are only varying degrees of success in the kitchen. Sure, that success might be learning how to not burn chocolate chip cookies to a crisp, but at least you learned something. There are few things in my life that can be viewed as that carefree, so why not lean into that in the kitchen?
You often place an emphasis on comfort, positivity and authenticity. Why do you think these are important in the world today?
I feel like the comfort, positivity and authenticity of small-scale kindnesses might seem to be less heavily weighted in today’s world. After my family experienced the loss of my dad, I saw firsthand the impact something as small as friends and family coming over to visit with casseroles in tow had on my mom. People offering someone else a hand, whether physical or metaphorical, is the easiest and, in my opinion, most powerful and wonderful thing we can do for each other.
What was your comfort food at Laurier?
I’m a huge fan of cereal so I think I essentially lived off of the stuff in first year, other than on Thursdays when they had scalloped potatoes in the dining hall. Off campus, you could usually find me at Jane Bond eating way too many antijitos or their massive grilled cheese.
What’s your favourite rest and relaxation activity besides cooking?
Up until very recently, I didn’t have an answer for this. Cooking is and always has been the thing I do to relax and unwind. Luckily, that hasn’t changed since it’s become my full-time job, but I’ve also recently taken up bird watching. Very cool, I know.
Your first cookbook is due out in September. Can you tell us about that?
Following MasterChef Canada, I was introduced to Appetite by Random House and received a two-cookbook deal. My very first cookbook, Kitchen Party: Effortless Recipes for Every Occasion, is coming out September 10, 2019 and is currently available for pre-order, which is just about the most exciting thing ever!
Makes 2 sandwiches
Editor’s note: Mary's Kitchen Crush airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on CTV and is also available at www.ctv.ca/maryskitchencrush, on demand and on Crave TV.