The Untold Truth Of Mary Berg

Mary Berg burst on the culinary scene in her native Canada thanks to her impromptu decision to throw her hat into the ring for a television cooking competition — despite having never cooked professionally in her life. While Berg's quirky charm and easy relatability quickly made her a fan favorite with viewers, TV producers were just as entranced, casting the TV novice in her very own cooking show on Canadian television, "Mary's Kitchen Crush" (via The Toronto Star).

Success came immediately, and Berg began hosting another show, "Mary Makes It Easy," in which she shares quick and easy-to-prepare recipes through a quirky, relatable style that is distinctively hers. American viewers were invited to join the party in early 2021, with "Mary Makes It Easy" joining the Food Network. "We are excited to add 'Mary Makes It Easy' to our 'in the kitchen' programming lineup," noted Food Network president Courtney White in the announcement for the show, noting that Berg is "full of culinary knowledge, accessible recipes and helpful takeaways for making flavorful and stress-free meals."

Given that she's a new arrival to American television, there's much to learn about this vivacious TV personality. Keep reading to discover the untold truth of Mary Berg.

Mary Berg's TV career began as a contestant on MasterChef Canada

Mary Berg first came to the attention of television viewers in her native Canada when she was selected as a contestant on the third season of "MasterChef Canada," a Canuck version of the hit Fox series "MasterChef." As Berg told Inside Halton, friends and family had raved about her cooking for years, but she was never certain whether she was actually skilled in the kitchen or if they "were just being nice to me." To find out once and for all, she applied for the show; when she was accepted as a contestant, she quit her job to focus on the culinary competition.

Easily making it into the top 10, Berg proved to be a hit with viewers. Her experience in front of the camera led her to an epiphany. "Being in that kitchen really solidified in my head what I'm supposed to do," she declared. 

That conviction became even stronger when she emerged triumphant, with the Toronto Sun reporting that she was the first-ever female winner of "MasterChef Canada." Asked what was next, Berg teased "a project in development with Bell Media," but her fans had to wait a bit to find out what exactly that project was.

Mary Berg trained to work in insurance, not a TV kitchen

Prior to winning "MasterChef Canada" in 2016, Mary Berg had never worked as a professional chef before. As she told Wealth Simple, she graduated with a degree in information technology and spent five years as an insurance broker before competing on "MasterChef Canada." She admitted her job was stable, but not particularly fulfilling — or all that interesting. "Insurance is something that everybody always needs, but it's not something fun to say you do at a party," she said. 

Looking back at her job as an insurance broker, she told the Toronto Sun about how her employers had "thoughtfully put a convection oven in the office." According to Berg, that oven was the focal point of her favorite moments on the job, which all involved cooking food and sharing it with co-workers. "It dawned on me that was always the happiest time for me while working there," she mused.

Berg was able to put the world of insurance in the past for good in 2018 when Bell Media announced that "Canada's culinary sweetheart" would be hosting her own food-themed TV series, "Mary's Kitchen Crush," with the show heading into production in the latter part of that year.

A tragic accident shaped her love of cooking

Mary Berg has been candid about having to overcome a huge tragedy in her personal life. When she was just four, according to an interview in Wealth Simple, a serious car crash changed the life of her family forever. "My father was killed," she shared, while her mother and brother were "both seriously injured, to the point where they both needed a lot of rehabilitation to be able to really do anything again." Miraculously, Berg was the only one who suffered no serious injuries.  

"I don't recall too much except that the memories of my father was always sharing everything, including food. He was legendary for this — he may not have had a lot, but what he had, he shared," Berg told the Toronto Sun of the memories she held of her late dad. 

Those memories, she explained, continued to shape her own philosophy regarding food. "It was instilled in me from a young age on how sharing something as simple as a plate of food is immeasurable in the joy that you not only give, but how it gives back to you."

Mary Berg established herself on Canadian TV before coming to Food Network

Winning the third season of "MasterChef Canada" was only the start for Mary Berg. "Mary's Kitchen Crush" debuted in April 2019, airing through to the end of 2020 (via IMDb). Per ET Canada, along the way, the show won two Canadian Screen Awards, taking the honors for Best Lifestyle Program or Series and Best Host, Lifestyle. 

In 2021, Bell Media announced that Berg would be returning to TV with a new series, "Mary Makes It Easy," debuting in September of that year. After a successful run in Canada, Berg revealed on Instagram that "Mary Makes It Easy" had been picked up by Food Network in the U.S. and was slated to premiere to American viewers in February 2022.

Asked to sum up her new show in three words, Berg chose "comfortable" ("that's a huge one," she confirmed), along with "goofy" and "love." "Food should not stress you out," Berg explained. "It should just bring you comfort and love, with a little bit of goofiness on the side."

Mary Berg embraced cooking to quell her anxiety

Even though she never had aspirations to cook professionally, the kitchen had served as a lifelong "happy place" for Mary Berg (via SBS). In an interview with CBC Radio, Berg said, " I have a very creative brain but I am not artistic." She added that she had suffered from "high anxiety" since childhood, "but cooking has always been my outlet." "Cooking and being in the kitchen, is the one place that my brain shuts off those loud voices that are always second-guessing things."

It's for that reason, she explained in a press release for "Mary Makes It Easy," that her new show was designed to demonstrate that cooking need not be a stressful activity. She wanted to help viewers with "the things that I have challenges with, and that everybody has challenges with in the kitchen." That goal, she added, led her to develop recipes for the show "that specifically solve these cooking conundrums, to make the cooking process from prep to serving, as easy as possible."

As Berg pithily reiterated in an interview for Bell Media, "Food should not stress you out."

She was hesitant to write her first cookbook

The success of her first Canadian TV cooking show led Mary Berg to author her own cookbook, resulting in the 2019 release of "Mary's Kitchen Party" (via Penguin Random House). Like her TV shows, the cookbook stressed easy-to-prepare recipes intended to remove the anxiety from entertaining. 

In an interview with Eat North, Berg insisted she loved the process of creating her first cookbook, but admitted to some initial trepidation. "I was nervous going into it," confessed Berg, explaining she anticipated a "lonely" process that would see her all by herself, "toiling away over a stove with no one to talk to" while she put the book together. However, she was pleased to discover "it turned out to be pretty much the exact opposite."

According to Berg, developing recipes, whether it's for a cookbook or a TV show, isn't as solitary a pursuit as she expected. While she did indeed work away in the kitchen during the day, she was then joined by her husband and sister-in-law in the evening, "and we all just kind of dig in together and they rip my food apart, which is actually a lot more fun than it sounds."

Having her own TV show is 'the most bonkers bananas thing' she could ever imagine

While a career in television was something Mary Berg had never imagined for herself, the same can be said of her pre-fame job as an insurance broker. That vocation, she told CBC Radio, was something she "kind of fell into," and wasn't really where she wanted to be. "What I had wanted to do was work in archives," Berg divulged, "which is arguably the exact opposite of what I find myself doing now."

Interviewed by the alumni magazine of her alma mater, Wilfred Laurier University, Berg admitted that suddenly finding herself in front of television cameras, starring in her own cooking show, was "pretty much the most bonkers bananas thing I could ever imagine." While she sometimes finds her new life as a TV star to be "surreal," she also expressed how much she enjoys the entire production process of putting together each episode. 

Interestingly enough, because cooking had always been Berg's way to "relax and unwind," she found herself without a hobby now that cooking had become her career. To fill the void, she revealed, she'd taken up bird watching. "Very cool, I know," she quipped. 

Mary Berg likes to keep her recipes simple

When it comes to creating her signature recipes, Mary Berg isn't trying to dazzle or intimidate. "Food has emotion and I look for good, honest food," she explained in an interview with St. Albert Today. "I don't like too many ingredients." In fact, one of her favorite aspects about being a TV cooking host is that she can share her knowledge in an easy-to-digest manner. "I like to demystify cooking for people," she added. 

While Berg admits to being something of a food explorer who could happily burn through "an entire Sunday making complicated recipes," she recognizes that's not necessarily the desire of those who are watching her on television. "I know that the majority of viewers and readers find that daunting," she told Laurier Campus magazine.

Berg also recognizes that different people will have different criteria for what constitutes successfully preparing a dish. For some, it may mean faithfully replicating a complex recipe, while for others it could be achieving something as simple as "learning how to not burn chocolate chip cookies to a crisp," she said. "The food I cook is not pretentious," Berg added. 

Mary Berg equates cooking with love

There's one ingredient that Mary Berg insists on using in every single meal she makes, and that ingredient is love. "Food is all about love," she said in an interview with Bell Media. "It's all about showing the people in your life that you love them — and that includes yourself."

As she told SBS, "Cooking is my way of showing that I care," explaining that her preferred method of demonstrating her love for someone is by preparing "delicious food!" Food, she added, is best shared and enjoyed with her loved ones. "When I cook for other people and sit down to dinner with my family and friends, the food just seems to taste so much better," she mused. 

As Berg told St. Albert Today, she maintains that same simple goal every time she steps into the kitchen, using her kitchen skills as a way to demonstrate how she feels about those special people in her life. "It's about feeding people I love," she said.

The food trends that Mary Berg has been loving

Given her newfound career as a burgeoning TV cooking show host, it's understandable that Mary Berg is keen to keep up on the latest food trends to bubble up within the culinary world. Interviewed by She Does the City, Berg shared that one trend she'd been embracing was the growing mainstream popularity of Filipino cuisine. As Berg explained, the Philippines-inspired dishes created by "MasterChef Canada" competitors Jeremy Senaris and Matthew Astorga "made me fall in the truest of loves with Filipino food ... All of that sweet and sour is so new and exciting to me and I'm so happy that Filipino cuisine is getting its time in the spotlight."

Other food trends that had captured her attention include microbreweries and Hong Kong-style egg waffles, which she referred to as "reverse waffles a.k.a. eggettes."

Meanwhile, another dish she singled out as becoming a favorite was shakshuka, a North African dish in which eggs are simmered in a thickened, spiced tomato sauce. "It's saucy, spicy, eggy, and just perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!" Berg gushed.

Mary Berg has picked up some clever kitchen tips and tricks

In addition to demonstrating her cooking skills via television and cookbooks, Mary Berg has also dispensed similar advice on her website, A Small Stove. A subsection of the site is titled Tips and Tricks, where Berg dispenses advice based on the kitchen experience she's picked up along the way. 

While the site hasn't been updated since 2017, there's still a lot of info available. One post, for example, discussed how wine and other spirits can be incorporated into recipes, explaining the science behind the "molecular bonding" that allows a bit of booze to enhance the flavors that already exist in a dish. Meanwhile, another post offered a kitchen-tested recipe for pie crusts that she developed after testing out multiple recipes, what she termed a "delicious food science experiment." 

One likely reason for the website's inactivity in recent years is that Berg is now focused on bringing those tips and tricks to viewers of her television shows. As Berg explained in an interview with the Toronto Star, her goal is to enable viewers "to apply the tips to other recipes — not just mine — and give you confidence in the kitchen."

Mary Berg is a believer in breakfast for dinner

Not only is Mary Berg on a mission to demonstrate how easy and stress-free cooking can be, but she's also a firm believer in the old axiom that rules are meant to be broken. Besides, as she told the Toronto Star, it's not like the stakes are all that high when preparing a meal in the kitchen. "It's the only place in life where you can't really mess up too much," she quipped. "And even if you do, just order a pizza."

When it comes to whipping up a meal meant to impress, Berg's go-to recipe is a breakfast dish — a frittata — which she believes is appropriate regardless of what time of day it's served. "Breakfast is unassuming and immediately relaxing. Everybody loves it," she told the Star. "And eggs are the one thing that always seem so much better when someone else cooks them for you."

Meanwhile, Berg also encouraged home cooks to follow her example by improvising by adding any leftover pasta that might be sitting in the fridge to the frittata. Regardless of how it all turns out, Berg joked, "at least you'll have cleaned out your fridge."

The three essential ingredients in Mary Berg's pantry

Over the course of all those hours spent in the kitchen, Mary Berg has determined some essential ingredients that must always be kept on hand. Asked by The Kit to narrow those ingredients down to just three, Berg spotlighted "all-purpose flour, canned whole tomatoes, and dried beans," and explained her reasoning for choosing those three ingredients. Noting that she actually has numerous types of flours in her pantry, she explained that all-purpose flour "is my go-to — it's basically the Swiss Army Knife of the flour world."

As for canned whole tomatoes, Berg finds that "they act as such a great base to so many dishes. They're consistently sweet in a way that no mid-winter tomato could ever promise." Dried beans, she added, are a "nutrient-rich" protein that are inexpensive, easy to prepare, and versatile enough to be used in a wide variety of dishes. "With these three staples, all it takes is a bit of imagination to cook up a ton of different meals," she declared.

Meanwhile, in that same interview she also revealed the one kitchen tool she cannot live without: her Microplane rasp grater, which she typically uses "at least a couple of times a day."

Mary Berg's new Food Network show was filmed in her actual kitchen

While Mary Berg's first TV show, "Mary's Kitchen Crush," was filmed in a TV studio, a press release confirmed that her new series "Mary Makes It Easy" was shot in the comfort of her Toronto home.

Filming from her own kitchen provides an even deeper level of informality, offering viewers an inside look at the ebullient TV cook in her natural habitat. "So we are in my actual real-life kitchen, which is really kind of exciting," Berg said of her new show in an interview with CTV News. "This is the place where my brain shuts off a little bit, and I can relax and I can just create things for the people that I love." U.S. television watchers will get to see Mary Berg for the first time in the environment where she's the most comfortable.