“There’s going to be food in every episode”: Mary Berg on her new daytime talk show, The Good Stuff With Mary Berg
The MasterChef Canada winner dishes on her dream interview with Taylor Swift, occupying Marilyn Denis’s old time slot and rumours that her hair is a wig
In 2016, Mary Berg began her ascent from amateur home cook to household name by winning MasterChef Canada. Since then, she’s published two cookbooks and starred in two cooking series, including Mary Makes It Easy on the Food Network. Now, the former insurance broker and recipient of multiple Canadian Screen Awards takes on her biggest gig yet: starring in her own daily lifestyle series, The Good Stuff With Mary Berg. It airs on CTV as of this morning, in the time slot previously occupied by Canada’s daytime queen Marilyn Denis. They’re big shoes to fill, but Berg says it’s all about connecting with one audience member at a time—and the odd guest appearance by her mom.
Your new daytime talk show is called The Good Stuff with Mary Berg. What’s the good stuff?
The name is inspired by a quote I include in one of my cookbooks: “If you are what you eat, I only want to eat the good stuff.” It’s from the movie Ratatouille. When we were starting to formulate what this show would look like, I talked a lot about how daytime TV is a place where you can offer up content that hopefully leaves viewers with a grin on their faces. That can mean good food, good laughs, good guests or good stories told by people from all walks of life, regardless of whether they’re a celebrity or just doing something great in their community.
You’ve inherited the 10 a.m. time slot from talk show royalty: Marilyn Denis. Will your show be similar?
It’s a lifestyle program, so there will still be DIY and fashion segments. I love reading, so we’re going to talk to a lot of authors as well as actors and musicians. There’s definitely going to be food on every episode. I don’t think you can put me in a situation where there’s a stove and keep me from cooking. I want it to feel like you’re at my house, just hanging out at the kitchen counter. I think that homey environment helps people relax.
You were a frequent guest on The Marilyn Denis Show. Did you learn anything from watching your predecessor in action?
Marilyn has this way of making you feel important. When she’s speaking to you, you feel like you’re the only person in the room—even though she’s making every single person in the room feel that way. That’s something I hope to do.
How do you plan to pull it off?
I’m a people pleaser. I know a lot of people think of that as a bad word, like you’re a pushover or don’t have your own mind, but I think it’s a superpower. My husband always jokes that I have a way of attracting strangers. In a group of a thousand people, if there’s someone who needs help, they’ll find me. He calls it “Stranger Time With Mary.” I think I just have an open face. We’re also going to have a recurring segment called “Mary and Myra Try Things,” Myra being my mom. We’re going salmon fishing, doing the CN Tower EdgeWalk. Basically, just getting our hands dirty.
Did you have to do much convincing to get your mom in front of the camera?
Myra Berg is a total ham and a scene stealer. I am but a conduit to her genius.
You mentioned celebrity guests. Care to name-drop?
One of the first interviews I did was with Tim McGraw, which was absolutely amazing—he was such a gentleman. I also chatted with Jessica Alba, who has a new home renovation show coming out. We had Sharon, Randi and Bram from Sharon, Lois and Bram on to make peanut butter sandwiches, which was a total delight.
Do you have a dream guest?
Obviously, I would absolutely love to talk to Taylor Swift. I’m an Evermore girl. Plus, I know she can cook.
Are you one of the lucky few to have nabbed tickets to the Eras Tour?
No! I got wait-listed.
I was scrolling through your Twitter feed and noticed you don’t shy away from politics. For example, you recently retweeted a condemnation of the plans to build a spa at Ontario Place. Will politics be covered on the show?
I consider myself a politically active person, and I do hope to include that. I have my own viewpoints, but I would love to hear from different parties. That way, people can be educated and make their own decisions. I would love to have Bhutila Karpoche on the show. She’s the MPP for Parkdale, where I lived until very recently, and she’s so devoted to her community. People were calling for her to run in the Toronto mayoral election, but she didn’t want to leave the people she represents.
Let’s talk about your signature look. Have you always had the blunt red bangs?
I’ve had bangs ever since my hair was long enough to lay flat. I was always the kid with a bowl cut. I experimented with ditching the them in my twenties. It was not a great look for me.
I’m sure you’re aware that there’s a corner of the internet that believes your hair is a wig.
I have seen that, and it is so strange. I didn’t realize that a lot of people on TV have extensions or fillers or whatever. These locks are all mine.
Have you read anything else alarming about yourself online?
I once saw a Google review that said something like: “The red hair, the glasses, the lipstick. What is this? A show for clowns?” I thought that was hilarious. I think that, in terms of people on the internet, I got a trial by fire during my time on MasterChef Canada, so it doesn’t bother me much.
I hope you take this the right way: you’re very good at being very perky without being annoying, which is rare. How do you pull that off?
When I was four years old, my dad died in a car accident. When you experience that kind of sadness, it shifts your perspective. People may be surprised to hear that my base emotion is melancholy. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I know what really big sadness feels like, so when I’m happy, I’m really happy. I like the balance. I don’t really live in extremes. I just don’t think that’s where the good stuff happens.
What is the biggest mistake you see from home cooks?
People stir way too much. I was watching my husband caramelize onions the other day, and I had to tell him to stop touching them. Like, dude, they need to sit and absorb the heat.
Kitchen tool you can’t live without?
A rasp. I use it for everything.
Probably my mom’s mac and cheese, which is funny because she’s not a cook. It’s just so good. It’s like a custard with cheese sprinkled into it, elbow macaroni and then crumbled Ritz Crackers and parmesan on top. When I was younger, my mom would always give me a few trays to take back to school. It’s what I make for friends if they’re sick or have a new baby. It just makes you feel good.
Are you saying it’s…the good stuff?
I swear that was not on purpose!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.