There’s a reason Mary Berg has resonated with audiences and judges, first on MasterChef Canada and then with Mary’s Kitchen Crush. What you see is what you get with Berg, and you can’t help but cheer her on.
The two-time Canadian Screen award winner is back with her latest series for Bell Media, helming Mary Makes it Easy. Debuting Monday at 8 p.m. Eastern on CTV Life Channel, Berg brings viewers into her real-life kitchen for easy-to-make (and equally easy to tweak) recipes, delivered with her trademark smile and humour.
We spoke to Mary Berg about Mary Makes it Easy, what viewers can expect from Season 1 and what it’s like to be an award winner.
How did Mary Makes it Easy come about? Is this something that you pitched to Bell or was this a collaboration?
Mary Berg: I think it was a bit of both, to be honest. We definitely pitched it to Bell. It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for a straight-ahead cooking show, in the kitchen, showing you how to make something, walking you through it, cooking show. And we definitely did that in Mary’s Kitchen Crush. With Kitchen Crush, it was about the end result. It was about the people coming over and making dishes inspired by people who you’re going to meet at the end, that was the payoff. In Mary Makes it Easy I think we did a good job at conveying this is it’s all about you and me in the kitchen together, because that is the biggest hurdle for most people.
It’s not necessarily having someone over. It’s how do you make something for friends, or even just your family that you live with or even just yourself? It is a hard thing to do when there are so many other options. This is about you and me, the person who doesn’t want to be pulling their hair out at the end of it when their guests arrive. It is just about prepping and making delicious food and making it as confident-filled and comfortable as possible for everybody.
You’ve always made it very accessible with your ingredients. Has that always been something that’s been important to you? Just keeping it easy for the home cook?
MB: Totally. When I write recipes, I want someone who’s experienced in the kitchen to not think, ‘Oh, this is an easy recipe,’ but I want someone who isn’t also to feel like I’m there with them walking them through. With ingredients, especially over the last year and a half, my cooking style changed kind of completely. I don’t go to the grocery store every day anymore. I go once every two weeks, pretty much still like I’m still on that kind of schedule and it’s totally changed the way I cook. This show has a lot more options for substitutions. There are a lot more suggestions for if you don’t have this or you don’t like it, that’s fine. It’s not going to ruin the recipe. Make it yours because it’s about you.
How do you develop recipes?
I love recipe development and I love food science. Basically, I have this Nancy Drew-style notebook, a composition book that I write my ideas in. I write what I think is going to work. I write estimated measurements and I just think about flavours that I think would go well together. It’s summertime right now, so obviously, everything I do has peaches and tomatoes in it because both of those things go so well together. So taking cues from what’s at the market, what’s at the grocery store, even what’s on sale, and then trying to figure out ways to do it in exciting but accessible and accomplishable ways.
You film Mary Makes it Easy in your actual kitchen. Was that always the plan?
MB: This show was always going to be in my kitchen. I think I wanted to have people in my house [because] there’s a comfort level there that I think you can’t convey in a set in the same way. So having that and giving this whole show more of a comfortable, tight-knit, cozy, homey vibe, it feels a little more like you’re just hanging out at my, at my breakfast bar pretty much the whole time.
I enjoyed the bloopers at the end of the first episode.
MB: Thanks, man! I wanted, throughout the show and throughout the episodes, to keep flubs in too. We kept things in where something goes wrong because that’s how it works. No one is perfect. In my world, in the kitchen, there’s no failing. You’re just like trying something and it might not work, but that means you learned how to make it not work. Sometimes things go wrong and you just roll with the punches and keep going.
Can you give me a hint about some of the upcoming episodes? The first is chicken.
MB: We’ve got 25 episodes, and it was really fun coming up with the ideas for each episode because we wanted to think of common issues in the kitchen. For instance, chicken. It’s a great staple, so we wanted to do one that with 100 percent all on chicken. The next episode is date night. The thing with date night is no, you shouldn’t make like a souffle. That is an insane thing to do when you’re trying to impress someone because it’s going to go wrong. You need to do things that are quick, really impressive, but also still look like you aren’t sweaty and you just had a crying fit on the floor before your date arrived. There’s get ahead recipes, there’s one-pot there are lunches, there’s baking, baking recipes for like real beginners. Like if you want to make bread, I’ve got the bread for you as a beginner and you want to make a cheesecake, I got the cheesecake for you.
You recently won a second Canadian Screen Award. How does that feel?
MB: It’s one thing to put something out there and think that you really like it and that the folks at Bell Media really like it, but it’s another when people vote and you find out that the Academy really likes you too. So how does that feel? Um, mindboggling. Oatmeal brain is what I call it. The fact that the show also won is so huge because so many people worked so hard on it. I know everyone says this, but I truly did not expect it either time.
I was a participation ribbon kid. I was the kid who you’re playing soccer and I’d be like, ‘No, I’m going to sit down and find a four leaf clover.’ It is really exciting and thrilling to work so hard on something and have that peer and Academy-based recognition.
Mary Makes it Easy airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV Life Channel.
Images courtesy of Bell Media.