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15 Minutes With Mary Berg, Host of ‘Mary’s Big Kitchen Party’

MasterChef Canada Season 3 winner Mary Berg recently announced a two cookbook deal with Random Penguin House and thanks to her upcoming series, Mary’s Big Kitchen Party, Berg is poised to become one of Canada’s favourite chefs. The series will showcase Berg as she creates original recipes with unique ingredients in an effort to bring people together in her favourite room of the house: the kitchen!

We caught up with Mary this week.

SDTC: What should we be paying more attention to?

Your own voice! So many times, we make decisions (or non-decisions) based on fear of something outside of ourselves but then we end up in a place that doesn’t make us happy or fulfilled. Listen to that little voice in the back of your head and make your life the one you want.

What was the last Netflix series you binged on?

Mindhunter! It might not seem like it, but I’m a huge sucker for murder shows and it’s such a good blend of true crime within a fictional storyline.

One new thing you learned this year?

I learned how to swing dance…terribly, I might add. I grew up listening to my mom’s jazz records and had always wanted to know how to do an actual, proper dance, so I signed up for a class without telling anyone and gave it a go! There is an awesome venue at Dovercourt and Bloor that has classes and a live swing band every Saturday night – highly recommended.

What is your current favourite can’t-get-enough food/recipe?

I can’t get enough shakshuka! It’s saucy, spicy, eggy, and just perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner! Serve it with a side of fresh focaccia or pita and it. is. perfection. I just created a version for my upcoming cookbook inspired by my all-time favourite pasta sauce, puttanesca, so I’ve eaten a lot of it lately and I’m still in love.

What food trends are you loving?

Filipino food! Hanging out and cooking with Jeremy and Matthew on MasterChef Canada made me fall in the truest of loves with Filipino food. Restaurants like Lake Inez on Gerrard East are doing some really cool things with traditional Filipino flavours. 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 than that, I’m still really into microbreweries and what I call “reverse waffles” aka eggettes. I know they aren’t really “trends” anymore as they seem here to stay, but I love craft beer and bubble waffles!

Describe the funniest thing you’ve experienced in recent memory.

My husband literally just made us dinner and it was essentially a congealed mass of cheese on top of mushrooms and noodles. It was adorable and sweet and hilarious and disgusting all at the same time.

Best advice you’ve been given?

“Keep’a go” – Myra Berg

What is the best part of being your current age?

Ooo, this is a tricky one! Currently, I’m 27 and still feel like a toddler most days just trying to figure stuff out. I think for me, 27 is when I’ve finally started to really feel comfortable being slightly anti-social every once in a while. I love going to the movies by myself, having a meal out on my own, and sprawling on my couch in front of the TV on a Friday night.

What word or phrase should we use more often?

I feel like I’m the worst person to answer this! My friends and colleagues often point out my “Mary-isms” – little words or phrases that I say on a regular basis that don’t *technically* mean anything but work well in context. Words like “squidge” and “zhuzh.”

Other than those, I think the world could use more high fives.

What is your ultimate comfort food?

Movie theatre popcorn, for sure! There are times when I’m too tired to cook or just in the mood for a junky, not-really-dinner dinner and I’ll pop out to the theatre and buy a giant bag of popcorn. My love for movie theatre popcorn is so intense that I rank theatres in Toronto based on their popcorn. I don’t care if the screen is small or if the seats are uncomfortable; all I want is 18lbs of popcorn in my belly.

What kitchen item would you be lost without (besides your knife)?

I would be completely lost without my rasp, my cast iron cake turntable, and my probe thermometer. I use my rasp every day for everything from grating cheese and citrus zest to “mincing” garlic and ginger. My cast iron turntable is a lifesaver when looking for perfectly smooth icing on a cake and my probe thermometer not only helps when I’m frying doughnuts and making swiss meringue, but it’s saved a good few roasts on those occasions when I’ve had maybe a little too much wine!

What’s your fave food-related memory from childhood?

When I was really little, I remember waking up super early one Saturday to make my mom breakfast in bed. I got the biggest bowl and filled it with cereal but, as I was not yet old enough to pour the milk by myself, I topped the whole thing off with lukewarm tap water. I remember being so excited when I woke my mom up with this horrible mess. She was a real trooper and had a bite or two before making up some excuse not to finish it.

The moral of the story is, Myra Berg is the best and my cooking skills have (hopefully) progressed a bit since then.

What can we expect from your upcoming show?

Big flavours, simple but snazzy recipes, and probably too many kitchen dances. I’m so excited for you all to join in on my big kitchen party!

Who was your celebrity crush when you were a kid?

Zac Hanson, to this day, is the dreamiest dream boat this side of the Mississippi.

Describe your ideal Saturday.

Start with a leisurely, snacky breakfast of bannock, cheese, fruit, jams and whatever else there is that looks yummy in the fridge. If I were up at the cottage, I’d stay in my pjs until at least noon playing cribbage, but in the city, I’d throw on something super comfy and head out with my hubs to grab a coffee and go for a walk down by the lake. We love walking up Roncy, stopping in at the butcher, flower shop, cheese shop, and fruit and veggie market to pick up some stuff for snacks and dinner. Basically, my favourite Saturdays are the ones where we have nowhere to be and can just see where the day takes us!

Mary’s Big Kitchen Party premieres on FibeTV1 on October 28th.

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