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'British Bake Off' episode is getting hotter for stereotyping Mexican culture -
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'British Bake Off' episode is getting hotter for stereotyping Mexican culture

‘British Bake Off’ episode is getting hotter for stereotyping Mexican culture



CNN

A recent episode of “The Great British Bake Off” is drawing criticism from some viewers for its portrayals of Mexican culture.

In the “Mexican Week” episode of the reality competition series, which airs in the UK on Tuesday and in the US on Friday, contestants are tasked with making pan dulce, tacos and tres leches cakes – dishes that critics considered clichéd and uninspired. The hosts, meanwhile, spice up attempts at tongue-in-cheek humor that not all viewers found funny.

In the opening scene, hosts Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas wear sombreros and serapes while joking about whether people might find such jokes offensive. At another point, Fielding ponders, “So is Mexico a real place?” while Lucas, in turn, compares the country to Xanadu. Other scenes include Lucas shaking maracas and contestants slaying pronunciations for guacamole and pico de gallo.

The episode’s flippant tone and use of stereotypes rubbed many viewers the wrong way.

Lesley Tellez, food journalist and author of the cookbook “Eat Mexico: Recipes from Mexico City’s Streets, Markets and Fondas,” said that while she hasn’t seen the full episode, she found the snippets circulating on social networks without imagination.

Despite its diversity, Mexican cuisine is overshadowed in the culinary world by European cuisines, she added, and the show’s treatment perpetuates misconceptions.

“I think they should have been a lot more thoughtful about it,” Tellez told CNN. “It reduces Mexican cuisine to stereotypes – to being this two-dimensional cuisine.”

Although it would have deviated from the show’s typical format, Tellez said she would have liked to see “The Great British Bake Off” bring in a Mexican chef as a guest, instead of having two white British judges serving as ‘authorities.

Alejandra Ramos, host of “The Great American Recipe” on PBS and Puerto Rican-born chef, said the episode reflected a lack of diversity behind and in front of the camera.

“It would have been the perfect time to bring in a guest judge or Mexican host to lead the on-camera discussions and guide the contestants,” she wrote in an email to CNN. “There also should have been consultants with actual Mexican cultural and food experience and expertise brought in to consult on the story, script, food style and challenges – as well as post-production and marketing.”

Ramos also asked why a baking contest would challenge contestants to make tacos – one point viewers of the show also called out on social media.

“Mexico has amazing pastries, cakes, breads and even savory dishes that they could have made instead,” she said. “But that would have required a more real knowledge of Mexican culture and cuisine, which is clearly lacking here.”

CNN has contacted “The Great British Bake Off” for comment.

Since the first episode aired in 2010, “The Great British Bake Off” – which airs in the United States as “The Great British Baking Show” – has become a cultural phenomenon, soothing viewers with its camaraderie and offering an escape. Yet it has already prompted complaints of cultural insensitivity.

During an episode of “Japanese Week” in 2020, some contestants crafted concoctions that relied on Chinese and Indian flavors instead, which some critics said amounted to confusing distinct Asian cuisines. In the same episode, Lucas referred to katsu curry as “cat poo curry”.

“Anyone who has watched GBBO also knows how picky the judges are when they think something has too much spice, how easily they exoticize non-British foods and how standard a marker a good baker is. ability to make a Victoria Sponge,” Jaya Saxena wrote in a 2020 article for Eater.

Former contestants have also spoken out about the show’s diversity issues.

In an interview with Insider last year, Rav Bansal called in new hosts and judges who were more familiar with non-English ingredients and recipes, and who might better reflect the show’s diversity of contestants. Ali Imdad expressed surprise that the production staff let some missteps happen. Ruby Tandoh called the show a “strange vehicle for change”, writing in an essay for the culinary publication Heated that it launched the careers of several black and brown chefs while being “imbued with the symbolism of an old, implicit white Britishness.

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