There’s a reason Mary Berg has resonated with audiences and judges, first in MasterChef Canada and then with The Mary’s Kitchen crush. What you see is what you get with Berg, and you can’t help but cheer her up.
The two-time Canadian Screen award winner is back with her latest series for Bell Media, directing Maria makes it easy. Debuting Monday at 8 p.m. ET on CTV Life Channel, Berg takes viewers into his real-life kitchen for easy-to-make (and equally easy to modify) recipes, delivered with his signature smile and humor.
We spoke to Mary Berg about Maria 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 you proposed to Bell or was it a collaboration?
Mary Berg: I think it was a bit of both, to be honest. We definitely proposed it to Bell. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of a live cooking show, in the kitchen, showing you how to do something, I walk you through it, cooking show. And we definitely did it in The Mary’s Kitchen crush. With Kitchen Crush, it was about the bottom line. It was about people coming in and preparing dishes inspired by the people you’re going to meet at the end, that was the payoff. In Maria makes it easy I think we did a good job of conveying that it’s about you and me in the kitchen together, because that’s the biggest hurdle for most people.
It is not necessarily inviting someone. How do you do something for friends, or even just for the family you live with or just for yourself? It is a difficult thing to do when there are so many other options. It’s about you and me, the person who doesn’t want to pull your hair out when your guests arrive. It’s just about preparing and making delicious food and making it as safe and comfortable as possible for everyone.
You have always made it very accessible with your ingredients. Has that always been something important to you? Just making it easy for the home cook?
MB: Totally. When I write recipes, I want someone with cooking experience to not think, ‘Oh, this is an easy recipe,’ but I want someone who is not also to feel that I am there with them and guide them. With the ingredients, especially during the last year and a half, my cooking style completely changed. I don’t go to the store every day anymore. I go once every two weeks, almost still like I’m still on that kind of schedule and it has totally changed the way I cook. This program has many more replacement options. There are many more suggestions for if you don’t have this or don’t like it, that’s fine. It won’t ruin the recipe. Make it yours because it’s about you.
How are the recipes developed?
I love recipe development and I love food science. Basically, I have this Nancy Drew-style notebook, a composition book in which I write my ideas. I write what I think will work. I write down estimates and only think of flavors that I think would go well together. It’s summer right now, so obviously everything I make has peaches and tomatoes because the two go so well together. So, following the prompts of what’s on the market, what’s in the grocery store, even what’s on sale, and then trying to find ways to do it in exciting yet accessible and achievable ways.
You engrave Mary Makes it Easy in your real 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 is a level of comfort there that I think cannot be conveyed on a set in the same way. So, having that and giving this whole program a more comfortable, close-knit, welcoming, and homely atmosphere, it feels a little more like you’re hanging out at my breakfast bar most of the time.
I enjoyed the bugs at the end of the first episode.
MB: Thanks man! I wanted, throughout the show and throughout the episodes, to maintain the flaws as well. We leave things where something goes wrong because that’s how it works. Nobody is perfect. In my world, in the kitchen, there is no lack. It’s 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 take the hits and move on.
Can you give me a hint about some of the upcoming episodes? The first is chicken.
MB: We have 25 episodes, and it was really fun coming up with ideas for each episode because we wanted to think about common problems in the kitchen. For example, chicken. It’s a great staple food, so we wanted to make one that was 100 percent chicken. The next episode is date night. The thing about date night is no, you shouldn’t make it as a souffle. It’s crazy when you try to impress someone because it’s going to go wrong. You need to do things that are fast, really impressive, but also make it look like you’re not sweaty and that you just had a crying fit on the floor before your date arrived. There are recipes to get ahead of you, there is a single pot, there are lunches, there are baking and baking recipes for true beginners. For example, if you want to make bread, I have the bread for you as a beginner and you want to make a cheesecake, I have the cheesecake for you.
It recently won a second Canadian Screen Award. How does that feel?
MB: It’s one thing to post something and think that you really like it and that the people at Bell Media really like it, but it’s another when people vote and find out that the Academy really likes you too. So how does that feel? Um, awesome. Oatmeal brain is what I call it. The fact that the show also won is so great because so many people worked so hard on it. I know everyone says this, but I wasn’t expecting it either.
I was a kid from the turnout tape. I was the kid you’re playing soccer for and I was like, ‘No, I’m going to sit down and find a four-leaf clover.’ It’s really exciting and exciting to work so hard on something and to have that peer and Academy-based recognition.
Maria makes it easy airs Mondays at 8 pm ET / PT on CTV Life Channel.
Images courtesy of Bell Media.