Mary Berry explores the nation for food, family and music festivals
Mary Berry’s new television show takes her out of the kitchen and into more unusual locations, including the cricket pitch.
“I’ve had a wonderful time. I’ve been to Edgbaston [the Birmingham cricket ground] talking to Jonny Bairstow – that was great, because just afterwards he scored two centuries. I think I gave him luck,” the 87-year-old says cheekily.
“He was such a lovely man.”
Berry feels right at home in a cricket club, having watched her husband and children play over the years and making many a tea along the way. Family is the central thread of her new six-part cooking show, Cook And Share.
Each episode takes the former Great British Bake Off judge to a new location across the UK with which she has a personal connection. In one, she travels to Bristol – a place she would often visit at weekends when growing up in nearby Bath, and where she had her first job after college.
“I have a granddaughter who’s at uni there, and it was lovely to get back to Bristol,” Berry says.
It was also where her youngest son William went to university – he was killed in a car crash at the age of 19, and during her trip, she visits his memorial plaque there.
Berry finds the city much changed from her youth.
“There are new things happening in Bristol,” she says.
“There’s an area I’ve visited by the dockside, and they have these shipping containers all along the bank. They’re all individuals doing their particular thing – a lot of food items and accessory items. The council has made them very reasonable to rent. People set up their own shops, and people go to buy their [items], or have different foods. It really is great, and it’s a different area for the tourists.”
And then there’s the trip to Edinburgh, in her mother’s homeland of Scotland.
“I started the marathon there,” Berry says, quickly adding that she didn’t actually do all 26.2 miles. Instead, she was on hand to serve the runners after they’d completed the route, saying: “Gosh they were hungry after they’d done the marathon, and I helped to feed them.”
In another episode, Berry helps to cater for a wedding with 400 guests.
“I knew nothing about an Indian wedding. It was absolutely amazing – the groom coming in all dressed up, on a white horse. It was unbelievable, and the bride in red,” Berry says. “She was in this gorgeous dress with her shoes – Jimmy Choo with a heel so high, I caught her afterwards walking in bare feet.
“The menu was Indian, and it was absolutely delicious – it was so different to a wedding we have, and it goes on for days.”
It was certainly a new experience for the veteran cook, and one that had her thinking back to her own wedding more than 50 years ago.
She married Paul Hunnings at home in Bath, going on to have three children (Thomas, Annabel and William) and five grandchildren together.
Compared to the extravaganza she helped cater, Berry says: “Our wedding was very, very low-key. We were married at two o’clock, came back to my parents’ house, and had tea – that was nice sandwiches, raspberries and cream.
“Five o’clock comes, and off you go on your honeymoon – none of these evening parties. It didn’t go on for days.”
And yet Berry can still see the similarities between the two weddings: a love of good food. “Food brings everybody together,” she says simply. “So the better the food, the more they enjoy it.”
When we speak, Berry is looking forward to her next adventure for the show: going to Wilderness Festival.
But make no mistake – this isn’t Berry’s first music festival.
“I’ve been to Camp Bestival, where I was playing the drums,” she says, referring to when she got on stage with Rick Astley in 2018. “I love the atmosphere, because everybody’s out to enjoy themselves.”
She particularly enjoys the vibe of Wilderness, because it’s “all about food and music”.
She says: “There are all different stalls of food for people to taste. It’s very much about food, and I’m looking forward to meeting all the people who are making it.” This year, she’s hoping to eat some Mexican, adding “it’s quite popular” among street food stalls.
Berry’s all about broadening her horizons, and at Wilderness will be learning from a Swedish chef who impresses her: Niklas Ekstedt.
“He cooks with fire, and that is really interesting,” says Berry. “He bakes actually in the coals, and he has a restaurant in Sweden – it’s always full of people who like the different way of cooking.”
The common thread running through the series is sharing food – and how this can bring us together. The show runs as a companion to her new cookbook with the same name, and Berry is well aware how our approach to food has changed over the years.
“Having food at home has changed, it’s less formal. And also if you’re going out very often there are sharing platters it’s all much more relaxed, don’t you think?” she says. She’s certainly been sharing a lot of food for her new show.