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EXCLUSIVE: Aussie icon Maggie Beer shares her secrets for a fulfilled life and reveals why she has no desire to slow down

The beloved cook, TV star and charity founder lets us in.

By Tiffany Dunk
As Maggie Beer potters around her kitchen in South Australia's Barossa Valley, there are often a thousand and one things jostling for her attention.
She's constantly on the go, with a busy family life, TV cooking shows, videos to film for the Maggie Beer Foundation – which aims to improve food experiences for those in aged care – Maggie Beer's Farmshop and more.
So it's lucky, she laughs, that she enjoys her baked goods on the verge of incineration.
"My main baking disaster is that I get distracted and burn things," Maggie chatting to The Weekly. (Image: Corrie Bond)
"My main baking disaster is that I get distracted and burn things," Australia's favourite cook tells The Weekly.
"I use the word 'burn-ish' because I like pastries and bread really taken to a past-golden stage. So my family are very funny. They always say that I made up that word to disguise burning everything because I forgot about it."
With a career in food that has spanned more than four decades, Maggie has always relied on instinct over vigilant recipe-following to fuel her cooking adventures. Mistakes, she says, both in the kitchen and in life, have taught her how to fix them.
WATCH: Meet the chef - Maggie Beer. Story continues after video.
And an eagerness to learn continues to offer horizons she never knew existed. Her passion for making food fun, easy and effortless is ongoing, as is her determination to leave the world a better place than she found it.
As she returns to judge her fifth season – and the sixth overall – of The Great Australian Bake Off, we sit down with Maggie to find out what makes her tick … and what really ticks her off.
How are you feeling to be back in the baking shed?
Each year we say it was the best of all – and we've had some amazing years – but for me, definitely, everything about this season was the best ever. We've always had great executive producers and directors and crew. And the four of us [fellow judge Matt Moran and co-hosts Mel Buttle and Claire Hooper] getting back together is a great unit. The cross-section of bakers this year are the most varied and interesting we've ever had. The whole thing gelled and it felt like this huge family, with everyone looking after each other.
How would you characterise your relationship with Matt?
Oh well, we are such opposites and he makes me laugh. He teases me mercilessly like a little brother does, and there's always a lot of laughter.
Baking has such a science to it. Do you still have baking disasters, despite your years of experience in the kitchen?
Oh my goodness yes. I guess the thing is, from experience, you know how to fix disasters, or the ones not to sweat about. Because I'm a flavour-driven cook, if I'm rushing it and my pastry shrinks a bit, but it still tastes wonderful, I'm okay. I'm not the one being judged, though!
Maggie and Matt on set in the baking shed. (Image: Supplied by The Great Australian Bake Off)
How would you fare as a contestant on the show?
I would be hopeless! My kind of baking is much more rustic. When I think of the creativity of the bakers in the show stoppers, that is not my kind of baking, but boy do I love seeing it happen. I just adore it. But no, I would be the first to go!
When people cook for you, are you a back-seat driver in the kitchen?
Every now and then my husband, Colin, says he'll cook … but I cannot bear not to say, "Well, do this" or "Do that". He'll say to me, "I'm following a recipe. I'm going to do it exactly as the recipe says." Which I never do.
Are your five grandchildren into cooking as well?
Last night our granddaughter Lily came and cooked dinner for Colin because it was my choir night. It's a real interest and a latent ability. When they were very young, I used to cook with them, roll out pasta and do things together, but now I just get in the way so often.
WATCH: Maggie Beer and daughter Saskia talk their favourite Christmas treats. Story continues after video.
Do you ever think, 'I'm just not in the mood to cook tonight'?
Never, but I'll cook something really simple. Like on Tuesday night, Colin plays competition squash. I was home and I hadn't thought about anything, but I had some eggplant in the fridge, some leftover roasted capsicums, some zucchinis from the garden and a bit of leftover blue cheese. So I just roasted all of those, melted the cheese and that became dinner. I would never not cook something. It might just be broth with some raw egg, a bit of parmesan and parsley from the garden. In other words, I'm not talking complicated, but I'm talking [cooking] everything from scratch, always. And simple. And never ever have I been tired of it.
You are always on the go! Where do your drive and work ethic come from?
That's an interesting question. I'm sure it goes back to childhood. My parents were small- business people who lost their business when I was 14. My older brother and I left school and, with the help of my aunt, kept the family afloat financially. I had the drive to know that you just needed to do it. That drive, I'm sure, comes from those times. And I'm also sure it's a positive from something so traumatic.
Do your family members ever tell you to slow down?
Yes, they certainly do. And if it weren't for the foundation, I would be slowing down. But I have a lot left that I want to do.

What are those things?
Well, I love my garden. They talk about smelling the roses – I've always had a garden and done something with it, but I've done a lot more since COVID. I have a choir and I love to sing, and I would love to take up the piano again. There is a lot. I always feel guilty, unless it's Sunday afternoon or we are on holidays, if I take time out to read.
When the pandemic first hit, you started hosting cooking classes on Instagram. What led you to do that?
I guess people have been so lovely to us, and I love being in the kitchen and sharing how to do beautiful food very simply and easily without complication. Over the short period we did it, we had six million views, and the feedback was so lovely. It was just done with my assistant, Chris, on the other side of the counter, keeping socially distanced, filming on my phone. There was nothing special – no microphone, no lights, just me in my kitchen at home. It was so fun.
Do you enjoy social media?
I enjoy parts of it. I love Instagram. It's passive inspiration – something that you can pick up and that little trigger happens. I'm a very visual person, that's why I love Instagram.
WATCH: Maggie Beer warns her followers about a fake ad using her name. Story continues after video.
What don't you like about social media?
What I disliked is when a scam happened in my name. It's the most terrible thing that people who can't be controlled – who we can't get to – can take my face, my voice, my words and put them into a business scam. That's the most terrible thing ever.
What else riles you up?
I live in a pretty cocooned world. The thing that riles me up is when people don't do the right thing by others. But I also have a great belief that there are so many people out there doing great things – and that outweighs the bad. I hate ageism. But I really like to deal in the positive, doing what I can to make things better, yet also putting up my hand if something is wrong.
What is the most important lesson you have learnt over the years?
I should preface this by saying that there has been a lot of luck in my life as well, and one of [those lucky things] is that I have inherited my mother's passion for life. But even when things are really hard, there are things to find joy in. That put me in good stead even for all the highs and lows that everybody goes through in life.
"There was nothing special – no microphone, no lights, just me in my kitchen at home. It was so fun." Maggie on filming content for her Instagram page during lockdown. (Image: Corrie Bond)
Are there things people get wrong about you?
I think people are too nice to me. They think I'm lovely all the time. I have very high expectations of myself and everyone else, and I don't want people to think I'm some kind of Pollyanna.
Does that mean you lose your temper?
I never lose my temper, ever. I can get very frustrated with myself, but I do not have a temper.
What would be your superpower?
It would be convincing everyone that if they love food and music and people, the world is going to be okay. If I could just infuse in people those loves!
The new season of The Great Australian Bake Off premieres 8.30pm on Thursday, January 27, on Foxtel and On Demand.
You can read Maggie's story and many more in the February issue of The Australian Women's Weekly - on sale now.

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