“The clock stops when you’re waiting for an egg to fry,” laughs Mary Berg. It’s not just eggs – every minor kitchen process can seemingly take a million years in TV time. “When you are in front of a camera, nothing in the world takes longer than making toast.”
It’s probably the only step Mary can’t streamline. Returning to CTV on September 13 for a second season of Mary Makes it Easy, she’s ready to share more of the uber-simple recipes and kitchen basics in her repertoire that have propelled her to TV chef stardom at just 32. Forget the advanced gastronomy and refined technique of the silver screen’s gourmet elite – Mary Berg is all about accessible eating that skimps on prep (and dishwashing time) without compromising flavour.
“I don’t think I could ever get used to getting to share food on television,” she says. Mary first made waves when she entered – and won – MasterChef Canada. She had no professional cooking experience (her background was in insurance brokerage), but she charmed viewers with her boundless optimism and brighter-than-life sense of fashion. The fact that she didn’t have any kitchen experience was a much-talked about point on the series, but that didn’t shake her confidence. As Mary describes it, she was “mentored” by some of the best chefs in the world: Food Network’s Ina Garten and Alton Brown, to name a couple. “I learned how to cook by watching people cook on TV, and now hopefully getting to do that for some little kid with a mom who hates being in the kitchen – no shame on her – it’s really exciting,” she says.
Mary Makes it Easy gives viewers a peek into Mary’s home life while she cooks in her home kitchen. The first thing to notice is that the space coordinates with her cheery sense of style – it’s wallpapered with a vibrantly patterned wallpaper from Divine Savages. It’s a more comfortable environment for her than the TV-set kitchens where the sink’s running water comes from a jerry-rigged system of buckets, and her crew feels at home in the Toronto semi-detached. “It feels like we’re a big family,” she says, adding after a moment, “and families can get very stressed out sometimes, but that’s fine.”
For this second season, expect lots of scene-stealing side dishes, comfort classics (“things that I used to crave when I got home from school when I was 14, and just wanted to eat microwave pizzas.”). You’ll also see husband Aaron demonstrating proper cast-iron cleaning (Mary really hates dishes) and no shortage of her all-time favourite ingredient: lemons.
Mary’s kitchen career has all been televised, leading to an interesting perspective on the environment – where most chefs might focus on the shelf contents first, Mary scans for good lighting and doesn’t blink when basics like forks are MIA from the drawers. Getting to see her in action at home is a treat, and her comfort and love for cooking shines through all the stronger. “When I first started doing this, and I first committed to writing recipes and getting to share them through TV and cookbooks, I was worried that I would start not enjoying cooking for fun,” she says. “Seven years in now, and I still just love it.”