Mexican Week on ‘Great British Bake off’ Has Sparked Major Backlash

“Great British Bake Off” is like a televisual glass of warm, honeyed chamomile tea. Usually, the program is a calming force among the sea of blood-soaked medical dramas, reality shows featuring the well-dressed wealthy arguing over trivialities and violently atmospheric Nordic murder mysteries. The keyword here is usually, because on this week’s episode, there is much to be offended by, according to critics on social media.

On Oct. 4, in the latest episode of the 14th season of “Bake Off,” judges Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood welcomed bakers under the tent for what they called “Mexican Week,” where contestants tackled Mexican dishes like pan dulce, tacos and a tres leches cake.

Even though the episode hasn’t aired stateside yet — as Netflix releases new episodes of "Bake Off" on Fridays — those on social media were already skeptical when promos for the episode hit Twitter.

Wary of what Leith announced would be “Mexican week,” fans on social media expressed their fear under the tweet that the episode could be insensitive, especially considering there are no guest judges on "Bake Off" with specific Mexican pastry expertise that could judge the week.

“I have never been more nervous for a bake off episode,” said one user on Twitter.

“As a Californian, I look forward to watching with horror and wonder,” said another user on Twitter.

“They better get them conchas and empanadas right…,” remarked another user. (Spoiler alert: They did not.)

For his part, Hollywood had the most knowledge of Mexican food of the presenters that day and as host of Channel 4’s “Paul Hollywood Eats Mexico,” a three-part special where “he explores the character, culture and history of Mexico through its food.” It’s during that special that was filmed in 2022 that he said he had “never heard of pan dulce” and learned to make it … which he then judged in this episode.

When the show actually aired, Twitter user @andyheriaud shared various clips of key moments from the episode that people took issue with, specifically ones where puns and other moments deemed problematic aired between mispronunciations of Spanish terms the presenters could not blame on British accents.

Stereotypes, both visual and verbal were sprinkled throughout the episode like the sugar should have been sprinkled into a flan mexicano or pastel del elote presenters didn’t have the bakers make this week, for some reason.

“Attention USA #GreatBritishBakeOff fans: Mexican week really is THAT bad,” announced @andyheriaud on Twitter, showing a clip of Leith and Hollywood discussing the taco technical challenge for the week, mispronouncing pico de gallo and more.

Among the clips are host Noel Fielding pronouncing “besos” like "Bezos" (as in Jeff's last name), a contestant calling guacamole “glocky-molo,” and Leith saying bakes “look Mexican" because “they’ve got lots of bright colors.”

Additionally, some people took issue with one contestant’s “fiesta cake," which featured a large black mustache, and the use of sombreros, ponchos and maracas throughout the competition.

A post on Facebook and Twitter from "Bake Off" depicting the episode’s cold open features hosts Fielding and Matt Lucas turning a Spanish name into a pun with the caption, “The juan and only Matt & Noel welcome you to Mexico Week!”

Commenters seeing this cavalcade of cringe took to the comments section around the internet to share their distaste for what was on the menu.

“Now who the hell thought to have a Mexican week on great British bake off omfg?” said one user on Twitter.

“Sombreros? Really? You had a chance to explore some great Mexican baked good instead you took stereotypes and made tacos,” said one commenter on Instagram. “In 2022. It really shouldn’t be that hard to do better.”

“Honestly the most British thing the Great British Bake Off has done is butcher things from other cultures for their own enjoyment,” tweeted another person.

“Some of the jokes were borderline offensive this week, which isn’t normally the case,” said one critic on Facebook. “Paul was also very quick to correct people on things that weren’t specific to their baking.”

“Have you considered not having a racism themed week,” added another Twitter user.

“‘Is Mexico a real place?’ is a joke that The Great British Bake Off thought would be cute during ‘Mexican week,’” tweeted yet another person.

“Coming from a Mexican this was a very offensive episode. All the jokes and stereotypes,” wrote another person on Twitter. “You guys haven’t done jokes or stereotypes for any other past episodes where you have had the bakers do foreign bakes.”

Unfortunately, that last sentence is slightly incorrect, as "Bake Off" aired another episode that got quite a bit of backlash: Japanese Week. Critics of the season 11 episode took offense to the fact that even though the theme was purportedly focused on the cuisine of Japan, contestants used foods from other Asian countries interchangeably in ways many commenters found offensive.

Additionally, "Bake Off" viewers in the past have taken issue with Jewish recipes contestants have been instructed to make on the program with debates over chocolate babka, calling challah a “plaited loaf,” and neglecting to mention that bagels are Jewish in origin.

TODAY Food reached out to Netflix and Channel 4 — which both air “Bake Off” — for comment but hasn't heard back as of this writing.

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