CELEBRITY

EXCLUSIVE: Maggie Beer: ‘We miss her everyday’

Honouring her late daughter’s legacy is the cook’s new focus.
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Describing Maggie Beer as ‘strong’ may seem cliché given everything she’s been through, yet no better word springs to mind when New Idea catches up with the beloved cook and national treasure.

WATCH: Meet the Chef: Maggie Beer

In February 2020, Maggie’s entire world collapsed when she woke to find her daughter Saskia had passed away suddenly in her sleep, aged 46.

Two years on, Maggie understandably misses Saskia every day – and she’s making it her mission to keep her late daughter’s memory alive.

“We wanted to do something to ensure that Saskia’s memory was celebrated,” the brave 77-year-old tells New Idea.

Turning the tragedy into a charitable legacy, the grieving Beer family set up the Saskia Beer Churchill Fellowship to continue the good work Saskia did within the farming and artisanal food innovation space.

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Maggie Beer is making it her mission to keep her late daughter’s memory alive. (Credit: New Idea)

“It felt right to do this … to help and encourage someone, like Saskia, who has great ideas and innovation. That way, her memory will live on.”

Currently finalising applications, Maggie is working closely with the foundation, and is “delighted” by the number of diverse applicants the fellowship has had so far. 

“It’s amazing,” Maggie says, beaming. “It allows people for, say, four to eight weeks, depending on what they envisage doing, of going overseas to find something that can’t be learnt in Australia. Then, when they bring it back, they have to give back to the community.

“Being awarded a Churchill Fellowship can make such a difference for someone to take an idea to the next stage of development. It’s a springboard for the change to grow their dreams. It’s just a wonderful way to celebrate Saskia’s memory.”

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In February 2020, Maggie’s daughter Saskia had passed away suddenly in her sleep, aged 46. (Credit: Instagram)

HELPING HAND 

As well as safeguarding her daughter’s legacy, Maggie continues her own charitable endeavours through her Maggie Beer Foundation. The charity’s core aim is to improve the food experiences for older Australians, particularly those living within aged-care homes.

“No-one needs good, healthy food more than those who aren’t able to cook for themselves, and really need something to look forward to in life,” says Maggie.

Since its formation in 2014, Maggie’s foundation has been reaching more and more aged-care workers. This year she has introduced a new online training program to cast the net even wider.

“I think many don’t understand the vital importance of good food in aged care and the difference it can make to the wellbeing of the elderly. There’s no doubt that food stimulates the appetite and the memory – it’s the quickest route to wellbeing that we know.”

THE MASTER RETURNS

In between running her ever-growing business and spearheading change, Maggie found time to film another guest appearance on MasterChef. Always a welcome presence at MasterChef HQ, the episode sees Maggie challenging the remaining contestants to cook a meal with ingredients packed from her very own pantry.

“It was so much fun,” she enthuses. “It was amazing to see the different ways they approached the challenge and the food they created.

“Personally, I could never be a contestant [on MasterChef] as I don’t cope well cooking under that kind of pressure. The pressure I place on myself when I cook is bad enough!”

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“Personally, I could never be a contestant [on MasterChef] as I don’t cope well cooking under that kind of pressure,” Maggie said. (Credit: Getty)

ZEST FOR LIFE

Given that Maggie is an advocate for the elderly, it’s very hard to believe that, at only three years shy of her 80th birthday, she’s in a comparable age bracket.

Indeed, with commitments from her business empire, charitable foundation, and an array of other ‘to-dos’ on her list, she juggles more plates than your average 30-year-old.

“I work very hard,” she admits. “But I have great pleasures in life, namely cooking, eating and music, and I take the time to find balance.

“Exercise helps too – I love it! I’m a passionate walker and will walk five days each week, which is a great way to help handle the frenetic life I lead.

“I have to work at my muscles and my bone density, so I make sure I do one to two workouts with weights each week [too]. I have my own program and I use a trainer, so it’s a bit of both.”

While retirement isn’t on the cards, Maggie concedes that she’d like to ‘loosen the reins’ a bit.

Already, Maggie and husband Colin, who married in 1970, have started looking at “freeing” things up a bit.

“Our youngest daughter, Elli, is stepping up and I will step back a bit, but it’s like my other home,” she says of her business. “It’s part of me.”

“A four-day working week would be perfect, rather than the current six or seven one! I would like to just decide, on a whim, to go to Tasmania, for example, and drive around. But there’s still so much I want to do!” the culinary queen says.

WATCH: Maggie beer and daughter Saskia talk of their favourite Christmas dishes (Article continues after video)

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Unsurprisingly, given the role it’s played so far, when it comes to Maggie’s recipe for a happy life, the ingredients are simple: good food – and lots of it.

“There are four things that are really important to me when it comes to my health: food, exercise, mental stimulation and my connectedness to people. To me, that’s what a good life is all about.

“Cooking is meditation for me. There’s not a day where I don’t love to cook. Both were coping mechanisms without which I would have fallen apart. Being in the kitchen – as Saskia would have been with me – is my place of comfort and happiness.

“I also never want to stop learning – that’s what keeps me going. Plus, learning helps me to help others. Everyone gets time in their lives to be able to give back, and you get so much joy from giving. I think that’s what a good life is all about.”

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