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Celebrity chef Mary Berg cooks with love

If you’ve never seen one of Mary Berg’s culinary shows, know that cooking with heart is an important ingredient in the dishes she whips up.
Mary Berg LVIMAGERY 15
Celebrity chef Mary Berg, host of Mary's Big Kitchen Party on Gusto TV, is making a guest appearance at St. Albert's Horticulinary Festival on Saturday, May 5.

If you’ve never seen one of Mary Berg’s culinary shows, know that cooking with heart is an important ingredient in the dishes she whips up.

Berg, formerly an insurance broker, is the 2016 first place winner of MasterChef Canada’s third season, a landmark moment that propelled her to instant fame.

Today she is seen regularly as a food expert on CTV’s Your Morning and The Marilyn Denis Show. She also hosts her own cooking show, Mary’s Big Kitchen Party, on Gusto TV.

The Toronto-based celebrity food chef is the special guest at St. Albert’s Dig In Horticulinary Festival, and has teamed up with the Enjoy Centre's Glasshouse Bistro to prepare a five-course interactive, sit-down dinner on Saturday, May 5.

“I made the menu and the kitchen will be kicking butt. I’ll be out with the diners on a stage recreating the dishes and highlighting ways to better prepare meals,” said Berg. “As the courses are served, I’ll be on a stage talking about the inspiration for the dish and I’ll be doing a demo.”

In fact, two dishes on the menu, chilled golden beet borscht and a fresh spin on the classic Surf ’n’ Turf, are variations of the ones she prepared at the MasterChef finale.

An independent spirit, Berg attempted to make breakfast at the age of four. And later during a traumatic incident, the kitchen became a place of comfort.

“When I was young, my father passed away in a car accident. The kitchen was a place I could jump in and help right away. And today it’s a way I show people I care about them. The food I cook is not pretentious. It’s about feeding people I love.”

Although the hobby cook loves slicing and dicing, working daily in a professional kitchen creates too much anxiety.

Much like a jazz singer in the zone, “the kitchen is a place where my brain turns off and I go with whatever is happening. When I realized that and went with my gut in MasterChef Canada, I did much better.”

Prior to the competition, Berg opted for a masters degree in information management from the University of Toronto. After graduation, she worked for five years at an insurance brokerage firm.

“It was my best friend that pushed me to go out for it (MasterChef Canada). She kept saying I was such a good cook. I thought she was lying,” Berg laughed. “I bit the bullet and applied with no hope in the world. Lo and behold I was accepted.”

Although she did not find herself on the chopping block, the competition created more than a few anxious moments.

“It was terrifying. It was the most intimidating position I’d been in, especially for a home cook who would usually sit down with family and friends and enjoy the meal you just cooked. Here you had three master chefs judging you.”

Within a few months, Berg’s success led to guest appearances and eventually her own cooking show.

“I love the behind-the-scenes cooking stuff. I never wanted or thought I would do this. After MasterChef Canada, I had no aspirations to be on TV other than the competition. But I love recipe development and thinking of the science behind food. And blocking things out – laying things out step by step. I like to demystify cooking for people.”

In addition to taking the pretense out of cooking, Berg creates an additional layer of homespun philosophy in A Small Stove, a website designed to share recipes and provide much appreciated tips and tricks. Just log on to

“I love ways to push recipes out. Recipes and foods are meant to be shared. There’s nothing I love more than someone saying they made a dish from my recipe and enjoying it.”

Passionate about food, she will tackle anything. But ask what her favourite food is and Berg gets excited about bread as well as her mother’s macaroni and cheese.

“Food has emotion and I look for good, honest food. I don’t like too many ingredients.”

In addition to a busy television schedule, managing a website, appearing at fundraisers and attending food festivals, Berg has two cookbooks in the works with Penguin Random House. Kitchen Party, a book filled with recipes that are easy to make for a crowd, is due for release in the summer of 2019. The second cookbook is slated to be on shelves the following year.

Tickets to the May 5 celebrity chef dinner are $120 each. Visit for more information.

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