After mounting criticisms over the past few weeks, the GBBO judge finally addresses the controversy.
Over the past twelve years, The Great British Bake Off has seen its fair share of controversies of different nautres. Ranging from lapses within the production to objections to the themes of particular episodes, the show has maneuvred through these moments in an efficient way, stating that either it involved honest mistakes, or that the primary intentions weren't to offend.
However, a recent episode of the show has sparked widespread criticisms, with the host Dame Prue Leith finally breaking her silence on the issue.
The issue at hand became a subject of discussion after the fourth episode of the show aired, which primarily focused on Mexican bakes, and the episode was titled Mexican Week. The Guardian reports that the episode involved the judges donning sombreros, utilized the instrument maracas and the cooking process was stereotypical with a focus on tacos and tequila, with mounting accusations of cultural appropriation.
Adrian Cavita, a chef hailing from Mexico City who runs a restaurant in London said:
For me, it’s a bit sad to see this kind of thing because knowing my culture and my country, I feel it’s more than just a cactus and a sombrero. But I think slowly people are starting to learn more and I hope people will get more interested in proper Mexican culture and food. That’s something I’m trying to do with my restaurant.
Cavita further noted that there are a lot of misconceptions about Mexican food in the UK, as there were assumptions that the cuisine was 'greasy and heavy', primarily focused around tacos and burritos. She added that 'six years ago, I made black mole [sauce] and people were afraid to taste it.'
She goes on to state that there has been a taste revolution happening in London, with people opening up their perspectives and taste buds to different types of cuisines, and this resulted in the establishment of Mexican-run restaurants such as Cavita and Kol, the latter being the first Mexican restaurant in the UK to win a Michelin Star, reports The Guardian.
That being said, in the midst of such progress in the nation, the airing of GBBO's Mexican Week episode goes against the tide of change in the UK in terms of expanding perspectives and dispelling harmful stereotypes.
Nud Dudhia, the founder of Breddos Tacos said:
Because of what’s happening in the culinary scene in London, people’s minds are being opened to what real Mexican food is, then The Great British Bake Off comes and kicks that back 10 years. It’s almost as though no research or respect was shown to the culture and cuisine.
[The show failed to tap into the increasing] appetite for real food and a real representation of what they might get if they went to that country.
Dame Prue Leith's response
One of the contentions were directed toward the opening of the show, where co-presenter Noel Fielding stating that they shouldn't be making Mexican jokes, expressing that it is something that can offend people, to which fellow presenter Matt Lucas responded asking 'What, not even Juan?'
Nearly twenty-four days after the episode aired, GBBO Judge Dame Prue Leith broke her silence and spoke to The New Yorker about the controversial episode, reports Birningham Mail. She stated that 'there would have been absolutely no intention to offend.'
Although there may have not been a direct intention to offend, critics state that insensitive approach toward a diffierent culture essentially warrants criticisms, particularly to highlight the impact of cultural appropriation and lack of support for ethnic minorities within television and other visual mediums at large.