Mary-Rosa Alleyne Berry, CBE (born 24 March 1935) is an English food writer and television presenter. After being encouraged in domestic science classes at school, she studied catering and institutional management at college. She then moved to France at the age of 21 to study at Le Cordon Bleu school, before working in a number of cooking-related jobs.
She has published more than 75 cookery books including her bestselling 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 has been a judge on the BBC One (originally BBC Two) television programme The Great British Bake Off since its launch in 2010.
Mary Berry was born on 24 March 1935, the second of three children, to Alleyne William Steward Berry (1904–1989) and his wife Margaret ('Marjorie', née Wilson; 1905–2011). 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 from 1964. Coincidentally, Mary's great-great-grandfather on her father's side, Robert Houghton, in the 1860s was a master baker who provided bread for a local workhouse in Norwich. Her mother Marjorie was a housewife, who, on occasion, helped Berry's father with bookkeeping. Her mother died in 2011 aged 105.
At the age of 13, Mary Berry contracted poliomyelitis 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 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.
She then studied catering and institutional management at Bath College of Domestic Science.
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, something which her parents would not allow until she turned 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. The temporary move to France came as a culture shock; she could not help but cry all the way through her first meal, consisting of horse meat, reminding her of the pony she had left behind at home in Bath.
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 then became food editor of Housewife magazine, and when she had children, she only took five weeks leave on each occasion, as there was no set maternity leave at the time and each time she risked her post being filled by someone else before she was scheduled to return. She then became 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 internationally around Britain, Germany and Ireland with retailers such as Harrods, Fortnum & Mason and Tesco each stocking the product ranges.
Since 2010, she has been one of the judges on BBC One's The Great British Bake Off alongside baker Paul Hollywood, who specialises in bread; Berry says that since working together, she has learnt 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 has led to The Guardian suggesting that it is the best reality TV judging partnership ever. She has also appeared on a BBC Two series called The Great British Food Revival, and her new solo show, Mary Berry Cooks, began airing on 3 March 2014.
In December 2012, Berry became the first President of the new Bath Spa University Alumni Association.
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.
Starting on November 30, 2015, she is one of the two judges for a 4-week American edition of the popular Baking competition called The Great Holiday Baking Show on ABC, which has a very similar format as the British competition.
Berry was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to culinary arts. In July 2012, 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.
On Saturday 7 June 2014, Berry was awarded the Freedom of the City of Bath, during the Mayor Making ceremony at Bath Abbey; and, having already received the Freedom of the City of London, on 19 November 2014, she was clothed with the livery of the Worshipful Company of Bakers.
She was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards "Outstanding Achievement" prize in December 2014.
Berry married Paul John March Hunnings in 1966. He later worked for Harvey's of Bristol and sold antique books. He is now retired. The couple had three children: Thomas Alleyne March, a tree surgeon, and Annabel Mary March (married to Charles William Dan Bosher, a master builder), a mother of three who went into business with her mother to market salad dressings. A second son, William John March, died in 1989, in a motor car accident aged 19 while a student at Bristol Polytechnic. Thomas and William both attended Gordonstoun School. Berry is a patron of Child Bereavement UK.
In February 2016 Berry suggested that she supported English football team Everton F.C.
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 the BBC genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? and discovered among her ancestors illegitimacy, bankruptcy and a baker.
Berry has written more than seventy cook books since her first book was published in 1970, and has sold over five million cook books. She regularly works with Lucy Young on her cook books, who has been her assistant for over twenty years. Her bestselling 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.