In a restaurant town populated by outsized personalities, Terry Berch McNally might be the quirkiest.
With ex-husband, chef and business partner Michael McNally, she’s created a blend of fine dining and casual bar fare for more than two decades at the London Grill.
As an oddball promoter, Berch McNally helped turn the once-dilapidated Eastern State Prison into a tourist attraction, first with Fairmount Avenue Halloween events, then with her Bastille Day block party, where she plays a powder-wigged Marie Antoinette.
Her latest quirky concept has Biblical connotations as London celebrates the Passover Seder meal by referencing the plague of frogs from the Book of Exodus. She has amassed a huge collection of frog items that she’ll display throughout the dinner.
What do you think it says about your personality that you dress up like a dead French queen and collect frog ephemera?
What a lead in. Even though all of my original intentions were about business, I hope it conveys that I’m smart, creative, entertaining and fun.
When and why did you begin collecting frog items?
I began collecting frogs from day 1 of this restaurant and 26 years later, am always looking for frogs. Passover is the story of the Exodus, the Ten Plagues of which frogs is one and we wanted to make a good story and a fun one if we were going to introduce a Seder. As a Jewish family I needed to incorporate the holidays at the restaurant. I’m a Jew; not religious but a Jewess all the way. So is our son. His Irish Catholic dad Chef Michael though is in charge of the matzo balls and gefilte fish.
You’ll be displaying several hundred frog paintings, sculptures, drawings and other tchotchkes. What was the first?
A garden statue from Frank’s Nursery in Cherry Hill. The rarest is a vintage “Hear-No-Evil-See-No-Evil-Speak-No-Evil” trio.
Would you describe the frog collection as an obsession, habit or holy mission?
Definitely a holy mission. I’m an atheist but my great grandparents died and escaped Nazi Germany, and my parents raised me as a Jew. I’m committed to that. Everyone loves seeing the frogs here, in bits and pieces, but never before have they been exhibited en masse.
Gefilte Fish and Frogs, Monday and Tuesday Seder Dinner, London Grill, 2301 Fairmount Ave. www.londongrill.com