by Jordan Chan
Local News Editor
On your marks, get set, bake! I was pleasantly surprised when, on Sep. 25, The Great British Bake Off returned for an eleventh season in the midst of a literal pandemic. If you don’t know what The Great British Bake Off is, allow me to explain. Twelve amateur bakers are thrown into a tent where they must compete in three competitions per episode: the signature, the technical, and the showstopper. Every week, one baker is judged, viciously eliminated, and tossed out of the tent.
Actually, I’m lying to you because the competition is anything but vicious. In fact, the contestants usually seem like the most pleasant people on the planet! Each episode, after the judges eliminate a contestant, the remaining bakers, although relieved, are heartbroken to see one of their friends go. It’s shocking whenever you see a contestant help someone else because of how this behavior starkly contrasts the overly competitive nature of American cooking shows.
Despite how much I enjoy the show, I wouldn’t say it’s without fault. In 2016, beloved Bake-Off hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins quit because of the producers’ propensity for cruelty. In an interview with Radio Times, Perkins stated, “Who wants to see people crying? I don’t.” The two hosts left along with past judge Mary Berry when the show moved to the UK’s Channel 4.
To be honest, season 11 has been a little disappointing thus far. In the first episode, one contestant knocked over another’s pineapple upside-down cakes, and in the fourth episode, every single contestant somehow managed to fail at making brownies. One of the biggest disappointments, though, was episode six, Japanese Week.
I’ve always loved that the challenges in the Great British Bake Off showcase a variety of different cultures, but Japanese Week left a bad taste in my mouth. In the signature, the judges asked bakers to make steamed buns, a food that originated in North China, and I was frustrated that nobody acknowledged the food’s actual origin. As my friends and I watched, we yelled at the screen about how idiotic the producers looked by making different Asian cultures seem interchangeable.
In the technical challenge, the judges asked bakers to make a matcha crepe cake, which felt more French than Japanese to me. Finally, in the showstopper challenge, the judges asked the bakers to present “kawaii” cakes, and host Noel Fielding described, “Kawaii is a style rooted in Japanese culture that means all things cute and charming.” While “kawaii” is indeed the Japanese word for cute, I was disappointed that the show’s producers oversimplified the concept for the sake of consumer convenience.
The Great British Bake Off is fun to laugh at with some friends, but it is not by any means a perfect show. If you want to watch this season, tune into the UK’s Channel 4, or if you’re in the US like me, watch a new episode each Friday on Netflix.
Photo courtesy Channel4.com