When I was asked to go visit a TV set of a cooking show my natural reaction was an immediate YES. Just tell me when, where, what time and I'll be there! I'm one of those people who is completely fascinated with all the behind the scenes work that make TV and movie magic happen. I often times buy TV box sets or blu-ray movies just to watch the behind the scenes footage, so when an opportunity to see this first hand came up I was more than excited. The cherry on top to all of this was learning that this cooking show was revolving around Masterchef Canada Season 3 winner Mary Berg!
I'm a huge Masterchef Canada fan and I've seen all the episodes. I remember vividly watching Mary Berg's season and distinctly picking her as my favourite from the get-go to win her season (and I'm not saying that just because I met her... honest!) Her warm and positive energy on the show was infectious that made people like me want to root for her. It was matched by her unparalleled talent in the kitchen crushing out amazing dishes week after week on the show, which ultimately led her to win the title becoming Canada's first female and vegetarian winner (although to be technical she is a "lacto-ovo pescatarian which means she eats dairy, eggs, and fish). Now she's shed her past life as an Insurance Broker and followed her dreams to what now has led her to star in her very own cooking series with BELL FIBE and GUSTO TV.
This is where I first meet Taylor Swift (whoops no I mean Mary Berg... but you have to admit the resemblance is uncanny!!) on set of her new cooking show "Mary's Big Kitchen Party." The TV set was actually at someone's home who was gracious enough to lend their kitchen for the purpose of this episode they were filming which was centered around the theme seafood! I stepped on set roughly around 20 minutes before they wrapped and it was such a treat to see all the different elements that are involved in making a TV show come to life. My biggest surprise was how fluid the whole filming process was. Mary and the director could speak and interact throughout the entire process without someone yelling "CUT!" The cameras keep rolling when re-takes are needed, so all of that to say is I realized just how important the editing process is. The cutting room floor is no joke, and Mary also made it look super easy on camera. She is a complete natural!
After the filming of the episode ended I had the pleasure of sitting down and doing an one-on-one interview with Mary to discuss her journey after winning Masterchef, her new cooking show, and her Masterchef Canada friends she now calls family. This is also a great time to do a shameless plug for my very first interview I did with Masterchef Canada Season One winner Eric Chong. If you have not read the full interview I did with him, click this link here!
And now before we get into the nitty gritty of this interview, Mary Berg has a message to all of our readers!
It was only last summer where Canada learned the fate of Mary's newfound career, and it's safe to say a lot has happened ever since winning the title. "So when I first went on this journey they sort of ask you what your food dream is, and to be honest I always wanted to do some sort of catering or I wanted to work behind the scenes like for a magazine developing recipes. I felt like that would be really fun. I love writing so I felt like that would encompass my love for writing and of food," Mary explains. "But since winning Masterchef I did do some catering, but the whole TV world has really taken off. It's been an unexpected whirlwind, but I love every second of it. I do a lot of stuff with Bell Media, with Your Morning, the Marilyn Dennis Show, and The Social."
Not only is Mary in front of the camera a lot nowadays, but I soon find out she's going to become a published author and have her very own cookbooks. She excitedly reveals, "I just got signed on by Random Penguin House for two cookbooks which is a childhood dream come true! I still can't really believe it. Even when I'm slogging away trying to work my butt off to get everything done it's still like a pinch me moment."
Juggling between writing, developing recipes, talk-show duties, and now her very own TV show cannot be easy, and if you've been watching TV lately you are bound to have seen some of Mary's commercial work she's been doing as well. "Yeah, I've done some of that too. And then this came along, an opportunity with BELL FIBE and Gusto TV. It's been so much fun! Everything happened so quickly, but it's been honestly so wonderful. I work so much harder than I ever did before, but I absolutely love every second of it. I don't have those Sunday nights where you're like... ughhh work tomorrow."
That thought might have come across Mary's mind once too many times at her previous job as an Insurance Broker, but as we find ourselves in this beautiful kitchen we are both reminded how far she's come in following her dream to pursue cooking. Diving in further to Mary's new cooking show, she reveals just exactly what "Mary's Big Kitchen Party" is all about.
"The show is based around me having kitchen parties which are my absolute favourite thing in the world. In my opinion it's not a real party until everyone ends up in the kitchen at some point. I know for me it's usually trying to dance around my friends standing in the kitchen, trying to prepare some food for them, and that's essentially like the premise of this show," Mary explains. "My friends all coming over to join me, maybe giving me a hand once in a while and enjoying the food and each other's company. Food is great, but so much better when it's enjoyed with people that you love."
When I was on set that day when Mary was shooting, that episode was seafood centric, so week by week there is going to be a new food theme that the episode revolves around. Mary adds that the themes give the show a foundation to work off of each week. "We got Halloween, Southern, today we were working on seafood. It's fun. It's something where you can kind of base your menu around and makes it a little easier to create."
Mary goes on by saying that her new cooking show is not necessarily the traditional cooking show we've all come to know. It's something that has never really been done before. "With Gusto's influence on it they are starting a dinner and a movie type of situation so what will happen is a movie is going to play, and my cooking show will air as interstitials in amongst the movie which is really neat."
With this episode being seafood focused, of course I had to ask her just what her favourite seafood dish to make at home is! Without hesitation Mary quickly states that it's ceviche. "I absolutely love making ceviche. In terms of like ease of input versus spectacular output ceviche is so, so fantastic. Something I didn't make today as it's a little bit heavier, I do love anything with lobster and tarragon. It's such a beautiful shellfish and with that tarragon it is so so good!" You know Mary ain't lying about her love for lobster because apparently her freezer is filled with it. "I actually just recently discovered in my freezer that I forgot I made some Lobster Ravioli that had a bunch of tarragon in it. Best discovery ever! I made this like about three months ago, totally forgot I had it in there. I was like what do I make for dinner.... perfect," Mary laughs.
As I mentioned earlier, I was so impressed with how natural Mary was in front of the camera. She is already a seasoned professional and has such a great presence on screen. One could only think that the experience of being in front of the cameras on national TV may have helped prepared and guided her through her new journey of becoming this darling TV personality.
Mary agrees. "Yeah, I genuinely think it did. I was so happy with the season that I was on. My other home cooks in my season from Jeremy, Veronica, Dr. Shaun, everybody was so wonderful and I learned so much from them just in terms of the kitchen and of being a weirdo kind of. It was so much fun doing that and just kind of getting to know the side of television where it wasn't particularly competitive which I know sounds funny because it was a competition, but we were all friends. We just wanted everybody to do the best we could, to show Canada what we could do. And I think that really helped me just be comfortable, not worry about competing against my friend. Just be comfortable cooking and doing what I love in front of cameras. You almost forget that they are even there."
As it turns out, Mary still considers many of her cast mates on her season she competed with as family and still keeps in contact with many of them. There's even a little munchkin from the guy who she had to beat in the finale to win the title she just adores. "Jeremy's little daughter is like my favourite baby on the face of this planet! She refers to me as Aunt Mary which I am very excited about. Makes me sound a lot older than I am," Mary giggles. I jokingly put out the idea of Mary becoming her God Mother and she whole-heartily agrees. "Oh gosh that would be fantastic! Yeah Jeremy... give me a call!"
So Jeremy, if you're reading this. The ball is in your court now.
"As for Veronica we still hang out all the time, we actually had Thanksgiving dinner together and it's a really, really close knit family. Again it was so, so wonderful being with those people and not feeling the pressure to kind of duke it out. It was just like lets cook some good food and have a good time. And that helped me here because I got to learn the TV side of things, learning about cameras and angles."
So what's next for Mary Berg besides this new cooking show? She's going to help pass on the torch and help mentor other hopefuls of becoming the next Masterchef Canada by being part of the audition process for the next season set to air soon on CTV.
Mary explains just how much fun she had at the Masterchef Canada auditions, however this time around she's on the other side. "I can't even explain to you the excitement you see in people's faces and the nervousness all at the same time. I experienced that completely. Like it was so funny seeing that from them because I knew exactly what they were feeling at that moment. You just got to drink it all in. It's terrifying. It's a very strange thing to do, to kind of put your life on hold and be like hey, I'm going to see if this is a thing I could actually do. And I'm so proud of everybody who did. I think it's going to be a really good season."
Make sure you all tune in starting on Friday, October 27th at 9PM Eastern on Gusto TV for a Friday night movie, along with tasty recipes from Mary Berg's new cooking show, "Mary's Big Kitchen Party." Find below the full list of movies and Mary Berg's recipe themes that are set to air. Her show will also be available on demand starting Saturday on BELL FIBE TV1.
Halloween recipes for Practical Magic (October 27), Italian cuisine for Under the Tuscan Sun (November 3), Southern recipes for Sweet Home Alabama (November 10), famous New York City cuisine for Working Girl (November 17), Hawaiian recipes for 50 First Dates (November 24), seafood recipes for Splash (December 1), holiday desserts for Elf (December 8), and holiday recipes for Deck the Halls (December 15).