Mary Berry CBE is an English food writer, baker and television presenter, known for being a judge on The Great British Bake Off. She has written over 70 cookbooks which have sold over five million copies.
Berry was born in Bath in 1935 to Alleyne William Steward Berry and his wife Margaret. Her father would later serve as Mayor of Bath in 1952, he was also closely involved in establishing the University of Bath at Claverton Down. At the age of 13, Berry contracted polio and had to spend three months in hospital, it left her lasting effects in both her spine and her left arm and hand. Berry struggled academically but her domestic science class teacher Miss Date encouraged her cooking skills. After leaving school, Berry studied catering and institutional management at Bath College of Domestic Science.
After College, Berry began work at the Bath electricity board showroom, she was tasked with showing customers how to use electric ovens, she demonstrated by cooking a Victoria sponge. Later she would use this same technique to test out ovens in television studios. After a while, Berry was desperate to leave home. She applied to work at the Dutch Dairy Bureau where she persuade her manager to pay for her to gain a professional qualification from the French Le Cordon Bleu school. She then left the Dutch Dairy Bureau to join PR firm Benson’s where she became a recipe tester while writing her first book. She cooked for a range of food related bodies, including Egg Council and the Flour Advisory Board.
In 1966 Berry became the food editor of Housewife magazine, she later moved on to become food editor of Ideal Home magazine from 1970 to 1973. In 1970 her first cookbook, The Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook, was published. She has gone on to write over 70 cook books and she is best known for her work with AGA cooking and for baking. She uses a KitchenAid mixer in her own kitchen and has always used an AGA cooker. In July 1990 Berry began teaching AGA workshops with the aid of Lucy Young, her assistant for over twenty years. Young has also testing recipes and co-written some of Berry’s cook books. The AGA workshops have taught 14,000 guests to date. In 1994 Berry and her daughter Annabel launched her product range of salad dressings and sauces, initially they were only sold at Mary’s AGA cooking school but are now sold internationally.
In 2010 Berry became one of the judges on BBC Two’s The Great British Bake Off alongside baker Paul Hollywood, the series has been hugely popular and is currently on it’s sixth series. Berry’s outfits on the show have led to her being thought of as something of a fashion icon, items she has worn, a £29.99 silk floral bomber jacket from Zara sold out after she worn it. In March 2013, Berry was placed second in a list of the fifty best-dressed over 50s by The Guardian.
In 2012 Berry was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to culinary arts. That same year she was given an honorary degree for her lifelong achievements in her field by Bath Spa University which incorporates the former Bath College of Domestic Science and became
the first President of the new Bath Spa University Alumni Association. In 2014 she was awarded the Freedom of the City of Bath, during the Mayor Making ceremony at Bath Abbey.