Dame Mary Rosa Alleyne Hunnings (née Berry; born 24 March 1935), known professionally as Mary Berry, is an English food writer, chef, baker and television presenter. After being encouraged in domestic science classes at school, she studied catering and shipping management at college. She then moved to France at the age of 22 to study at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, before working in a number of cooking-related jobs.
Mary Rosa Alleyne Berry
24 March 1935
Bath, Somerset, England
|Other names||Mary, Queen of Cakes|
Paul John March Hunnings
She has published more than 75 cookery books, including her best-selling Baking Bible in 2009. Her first book was The Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook in 1970. She hosted several television series for the BBC and Thames Television. Berry is an occasional contributor to Woman's Hour and Saturday Kitchen. She was a judge on the BBC One (originally BBC Two) television programme The Great British Bake Off from its launch in 2010 until 2016, when it relocated to Channel 4.
Berry was born on 24 March 1935, the second of three children, to Margaret (‘Marjorie’, née Wilson; 1905–2011) and Alleyne William Steward Berry (1904–1989). Alleyne was a surveyor and planner who served as Mayor of Bath in 1952 and was closely involved in establishing the University of Bath at Claverton Down. Mary's great-great-grandfather on her father's side, Robert Houghton, was a master baker in the 1860s who provided bread for a local workhouse in Norwich. Her mother died in 2011 aged 105.
At the age of 13, Berry contracted polio and had to spend three months in hospital. This resulted in her having a twisted spine, a weaker left hand and thinner left arm. She has said that the period of forced separation from her family while in the hospital "toughened [her] up" and taught her to make the most of every opportunity she would have.
Berry attended Bath High School, where she described her academic abilities as "hopeless" until she attended domestic science classes with a teacher called Miss Date, who was particularly encouraging of her cooking abilities. Her first creation in the class was a treacle sponge pudding which she took home, and her father told her that it was as good as her mother's.
Berry's first job was at the Bath Electricity Board showroom and then conducting home visits to show new customers how to use their electric ovens. She would typically demonstrate the ovens by making a Victoria sponge, a technique she would later repeat when in television studios to test out an oven she had not used before. Her catchment area for demonstrations was limited to the greater Bath area, which she drove around in a Ford Popular supplied as a company car.
Her ambition was to move out of the family home to London, which her parents would not allow until she was 21. At the age of 22, she applied to work at the Dutch Dairy Bureau, while taking City & Guilds courses in the evenings. She then persuaded her manager to pay for her to undertake the professional qualification from the French Le Cordon Bleu school.
She left the Dutch Dairy Bureau to become a recipe tester for PR firm Benson's, where she began to write her first book. She has since cooked for a range of food-related bodies, including the Egg Council and the Flour Advisory Board. In 1966 she became food editor of Housewife magazine. She was food editor of Ideal Home magazine from 1970 to 1973.
Her first cookbook, The Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook, was published in 1970. She launched her own product range in 1994 with her daughter Annabel. The salad dressings and sauces were originally only sold at Mary's AGA cooking school, but have since been sold in Britain, Germany and Ireland with retailers such as Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Tesco.
In her own kitchen, she uses a KitchenAid mixer which she describes as being the one gadget she could not live without. She has always had an AGA cooker, and used to run cooking courses for AGA users. She describes Raymond Blanc's restaurant Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons as one of her favourites as well as the Old Queen's Head, local to where she lives in Penn, High Wycombe.
In February 2015 Berry featured in a programme in aid of the Third World charity Comic Relief. In May 2015 she began presenting a new BBC Two series called Mary Berry's Absolute Favourites. In November 2015 she was the subject a two-part biographical documentary entitled The Mary Berry Story.
Starting on 30 November 2015, she was one of the two judges for a four-week American edition of the popular baking competition The Great Holiday Baking Show on ABC, which followed a similar format to the British competition.
In November 2016, it was announced that Berry would present a new six-part series, Mary Berry Everyday in which she would share her cooking tips, family favourites and special occasion recipes. The show aired on BBC Two.
In April 2017, Berry launched a series of cakes that could be bought from supermarkets. The cakes contain emulsifiers and preservatives that Berry has previously described as "unwanted extras".
From 22 November 2017 to 13 December 2017, Berry presented a 4 part series called Mary Berry's Country House Secrets on BBC One. In this series, she ventured to four of the UK's stately homes and explored each through the prism of food and history. The locations were Highclere Castle, Scone Palace, Powderham Castle and Goodwood House.
The Great British Bake OffEdit
From 2010 to 2016 she was one of the judges on BBC One's (formerly, BBC Two's) The Great British Bake Off alongside baker Paul Hollywood, who specialises in bread. Berry says that since working together, she has learned from him. However, some viewers were outraged during the first series when a decision was made to make the contestants use one of Hollywood's recipes for scones instead of one of Berry's.
Her work on the show with Hollywood led to The Guardian's suggesting that it was the "best reality TV judging partnership ever." In September 2016, Love Productions announced that a three-year deal to broadcast the show on Channel 4 instead of the BBC from 2017 had been agreed. Co-hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins announced that they would not be continuing with Bake Off on its new network. Berry announced she was also leaving Bake Off on the same day that fellow judge Paul Hollywood announced he would be staying with the show.
Berry married Paul John March Hunnings in 1966. He worked for Harvey's of Bristol and sold antique books and is now retired. The couple have two sons and a daughter; one of the sons died in 1989, in a car accident aged 19. Berry is a patron of Child Bereavement UK.
In March 2013, Berry was placed second in a list of the fifty best-dressed over 50s by The Guardian. In September 2014, Berry was the subject of an episode of the BBC genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? and discovered among her ancestors illegitimacy, bankruptcy and a baker.
Berry is a member of the Church of England and has worshipped at Holy Trinity Church in Penn since 1989. Her mother, who died in 2011, had also been an active church member. As part of the BBC2 programme Mary Berry's Easter Feast at Easter 2016, Berry visited Bishopthorpe Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of York, who is the second most senior cleric in the Church of England, and filmed a special "Cooking with the Archbishop" segment.
Berry has written more than seventy cookery books since her first book was published in 1970, and has sold over five million cookery books. She regularly works on her cookery books with Lucy Young, who has been her assistant for over twenty years. Her best-selling Baking Bible was rated one of the ten best baking books by The Independent.
Since September 2014, Berry's recipes have also been packaged in an interactive mobile app called "Mary Berry: In Mary We Trust".
Her autobiography, Recipe for Life, was published in 2013 by Michael Joseph.
Honours and awardsEdit
In June 2009, Berry was awarded the Guild of Food Writers Lifetime Achievement Award.
On 7 June 2014, Berry was awarded the Freedom of the City of Bath; and, having already received the Freedom of the City of London, on 19 November 2014, she was made a liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Bakers.
Berry was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2020 Birthday Honours for services to broadcasting, the culinary arts and charity. She received the honour on 20 October 2021 at Windsor Castle.
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